Nearly 340 million people worldwide struggle with depression; unfortunately, a good percentage of them don’t find relief through conventional medicine. Worse, depression is the number one cause of disability worldwide.
A growing number of people would prefer not to use prescription medications, which come with numerous possible negative side effects, including weight gain, loss of sexual desire, and insomnia.
Thankfully, there are emerging alternative treatments that hold much promise; natural remedies, including herbs, supplements, and vitamins, are the focus of ongoing research to determine if they can be of benefit for people with depression.
While results of studies are still mixed, the following six supplements and herbs might just be worth trying for mild to moderate depression.
Many of these treatments hold promise, but some come with side effects, and others have possible adverse interactions with other medications. As always, please consult with your naturopath, doctor or psychiatrist before using any of these alternatives.
Fish Oil (omega-3 fatty acids)
Fish oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, in particular DHA, an essential fatty acid found in nerve and brain tissue. While the benefits of fish oils and Omega-3’s have been widely reported for heart health, they also maintain a healthy mind, and may be good for relieving symptoms of depression too.
The B vitamins, particularly B-6, B-12 and Folic Acid, are what best-selling author Mark Hyman, MD, calls the ‘mighty methylators for mental health’. Research suggests that increasing your intake of these vitamins could be helpful in treating mild depression. Interestingly, they also increase the efficacy of prescription anti-depressants.
5-HTP or Tryptophan
5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is a chemical the body makes from L-tryptophan, an amino acid found naturally in many common foods (most notably, turkey, but also nuts, seeds, cheese, fish and lentils).
Medications that increase serotonin tend to help ease symptoms of depression, and 5-HTP may help raise your brain’s serotonin levels.
SAM-e is compound naturally formed in the body when the amino acid methionine combines with ATP (adenosyl-triphosphate), which is a key component in the synthesis of neurotransmitters and thus in healthy brain functioning, which may explain its emerging role in treating depression.
GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) and Theanine
GABA is a neurotransmitter involved in stress relief; it activates the major calming neurotransmitters, promoting relaxation and a reduction in anxiety. Because the body has some difficulty absorbing synthesized GABA, individuals may want to try taking the amino acid precursor theanine, which triggers the release of GABA in the brain. Theanine is most notably found in high-quality green tea.
St. John’s Wort
An herbal remedy long used in Europe as a treatment for mood disorders, St. John’s Wort has shown to be effective for some in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. However, its full effect may only be felt after approximately eight weeks of taking the herb (usually taken in the form of a standardized extract).
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