Depression is a serious mood disorder with symptoms that range from mild to debilitating and in some cases can be potentially life-threatening. Some people look to manage depression with herbal remedies, rather than with medication a doctor prescribes.
Medications and counseling are conventional ways to alleviate the symptoms of depression. However, some herbs and supplements may also help.
Research suggests promise for some supplements in treating mild-to-moderate depression. These are some of the supplements that people most widely use:
St. John’s wort
St. John’s wort is also 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.
In some studies St John’s Wort worked almost as well as antidepressant medications.
St John’s wort can 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 a 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 lack of motivation that can occur with depression.
Chamomile, which comes from the Matricaria recutita plant, and its role in helping to manage depression and anxiety isn’t exactly favorable.
The results show that chamomile produced more significant relief from depressive symptoms than a placebo. However, further studies are necessary to confirm the health benefits of chamomile in treating depressive symptoms.
Lavender oil is a popular essential oil and one of my personal favorites. People typically use lavender oil for relaxation and reducing anxiety and mood disturbances.
Lavender has mixed results in studies that assess its impact on anxiety. However, its effectiveness as a treatment for ongoing depression has little evidence in support at the current time.
Some studies cite using saffron as a safe and effective measure for controlling the symptoms of depression, such as this non-systematic review from 2018.
However, more research would help confirm the possible benefits of saffron for people with depression. There also needs to be more research to understand any possible adverse effects better.
Some supplements have shown promising effects on depression symptoms. However, many investigations confirming their benefits are low quality.
SAMe is short for S-adenosyl methionine. It is a synthetic form of a chemical that occurs naturally in the body.
Studies have shown that SAMe had about the same effectiveness as the common antidepressants imipramine or escitalopram. Furthermore, it was better than a placebo when the researchers mixed SAMe with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor medications.
Omega-3 fatty acids
While the study reported no serious side effects from the supplement, they also advised that it would only be an effective measure in treatment for depression that was due to omega-3 deficiency.
Also known as 5-hydroxytryptophan, this supplement may be useful in regulating and improving levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that affects a person’s mood.
5-HTP is available as an over-the-counter (OTC) supplement in the U.S. but may require a prescription in other countries.
More research is necessary, especially regarding concerns that it may cause serotonin syndrome, a serious neurological complication if a person takes 5-HTP in excess.
Bottomline: I believe if you are comfortable treating yourself with herbal supplements and they work for you that it great. Herbal supplements do not work for everyone but if you do decide to go the herbal route, you should always be sure to purchase herbs and supplements from a trusted manufacturer. Also, there is NOTHING wrong with needing prescription drugs or professional counseling. You must do whatever it takes to live your best life. There is no shame in needing or asking for help.
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