10 Herbs and Natural Supplements for Depression
The use of antidepressants in Canada has risen nearly 400% since 1988, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, over 1 in 10 Americans over the age of 12 now takes an antidepressant. With this diagnosis overkill, there is a demand for alternatives to prescription antidepressants all over the world.
Fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), fluvoxamine (Luvox), citalopram (Celexa), and escitalopram (Lexapro), are among the world’s most widely prescribed anti-depressant medications, targeting our serotonin receptors and making us think we are happier than we really are.
The depressing thing is (pardon the pun), is that antidepressants don’t really work, and the pharmaceutical industry and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have intentionally deceived us into believing that they DO work. Dr. Mark Hyman (MD) states that a majority of studies done on antidepressants twist the results to imply that these drugs work, when they really don’t. Scientists are even sometimes paid or threatened by drug companies to not publish negative results on their drugs.
Rather than using drugs to suppress symptoms, working with your body and truly listening to it to help discover the root of the problem is one of the best ways to help alleviate depression. Many different things can cause depression, from food allergies to relationships. Dr. Hyman notes that, “the real cure lies in rebalancing the underlying systems in your body that are at the root of all health and illness.”
10 Natural Alternatives to Prescription Anti-Depressants
Here are 10 natural alternatives to start treating your depression today!
1. Vitamin-B Complex
The B vitamins, especially B6 and folic acid are helpful in reducing depression. B-complex vitamins are essential to mental and emotional well-being. They cannot be stored in the body, so it is our job to ensure that we consume B vitamins through our daily diet.
B vitamins are destroyed by alcohol, refined sugars, nicotine and caffeine, things that most people in america consume. It is no wonder, then, that so many people experience depressive symptoms.
B vitamins are critical for metabolizing homocysteine, which can play a factor in depression.
Fruits high in B vitamins include avocado, banana, breadfruit, cherimoya, dates, gooseberries, guava, lychee, mango, passion fruit, pineapple, pomegranate, watermelon, blackberries, boysenberries, loganberries, orange, papaya, raspberries and strawberries.
Vegetables high in B vitamins include amaranth leaves, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, butternut squash, squash, celery, corn, french beans, green pepper, kale, okra, peas, potatoes, spirulina, spaghetti squash, sweet potato, taro root, cabbage, collards and spinach.
2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3’s play a critical role in the development and function of the central nervous system. Research has shown that there is a direct connection between a lack of omega-3 fatty acids and major depressive disorder.
Consume plenty of healthy plant-based fats to avoid cognitive disturbances. You can choose from avocado, hemp seeds, cold-pressed hemp oil, flax, chia seeds, walnuts (soak before consuming), cold-pressed olive oil and almonds.
Some fruits are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, due to their high seed content such as dragon fruit, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, sea buckthorn berries, and goji berries.
3. Sunlight (or vitamin D supplement)
Deficiency in this essential vitamin is one of the main triggers for depression. Supplementing with at least 5,000 – 10,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day (if you never get out in the sun) is a must. In summer, if you spend at least 15 minutes a day outside in the sun, you will satisfy most of your vitamin D requirements.
Tryptophan is an essential amino acid which must be obtained through a person’s diet. Once in the body, this amino acid gets converted to niacin, serotonin (the happy chemical) and melatonin.
In fact, most anti-depressant drugs work to increase the amount of serotonin in the brain, which is why it is hard for so many people to come off the drug once they have been on it for so long. Tryptophan found in natural foods help to increase serotonin levels without the extreme side effects associated with taking traditional anti-depressant drugs.
What foods are high in tryptophan? Bananas, pumpkin seeds, spirulina, tamarind, potatoes, quinoa, rice, cacao, chickpeas, oats, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, avocado, kiwi, persimmon, and watermelon (very high).
A growing number of studies have shown that yoga is beneficial in treating mental health issues like anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Yoga helps to modulate the stress response by reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure and easing respiration. There is also evidence that daily yoga practicing helps increase heart rate variability (an indicator of how well the body can respond to stress).
Engaging in regular yogic practice can help you relieve depression and put you in touch with a deep source of joy and peace. When we begin to release at a deep level, the emotional scars and trauma we have accrued in our physical body and our spiritual body start to bubble up and out, so we can deal with them through posture, mind, and breath. Coming face-to-face with your own demons and learning to deal with them and putting them to peace, is something yoga has helped millions achieve.
6. St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort is a natural, herbal medicine that has been proven to help treat depression. It has been found to work just as well, if not better than, prescription antidepressants.
This herb contains two active compounds, hypericin and hyperforin, which affects the activity of the brain’s serotonin system. Serotonin helps regulate our mood, sleep and appetite, and when we are low on serotonin, we often fall into the hands of depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, aggressive behaviours, suicide, ADD, and migraines.
The usual dose of St.John’s wort is 300 milligrams three times a day for two months to start receiving the benefits of this amazing plant! If after four months of taking St. John’s wort and nothing has happened with respect to your situation, it is likely not worth taking.
Magnesium plays an important role in biochemical reactions all over the body. Becoming deficient in this vital mineral (which isn’t hard, given our soils are depleted and the mineral content in fruit and vegetables nowadays is quite poor compared to back in the day) could cause depression, behavioural disturbances, headaches, muscle cramps, seizures, ataxia, psychosis, and irritability. In fact, all of these can be easily reversed when replenished with a quality magnesium source.
I personally take a couple different ionic mineral supplements (switch it up between days), in addition to my raw vegan diet. The reason I do this, is again, because of the mineral depletion in our soils, and the quality of minerals in fruit and vegetables not being as optimal as I would like.
Did you know, that in 1905, the average American magnesium intake was 400mg daily, and only 1% of Americans had depression prior to the age of 75? Nowadays, we are getting less than 250mg daily (especially individuals consuming a standard American diet), and the recommended daily intake is between 350-450mg daily.
Some plant-based foods which are naturally higher in this mineral are figs, almonds, cacao, sea vegetables (nori, wakame, dulse, kelp), pumpkin seeds, cilantro/corriander, bananas, okra, swiss chard, spinach (and other dark leafy greens), hazelnuts, beet greens, dates and avocado.
8. Ginkgo Biloba
The anti-depressive effects of gingko biloba have been studied and has been proven to be effective in treating mild to moderate depression. One study found that taking 80mg of Gingko Biloba extract three times a day or a placebo (non-active substance), resulted in a significant reduction in the total score of the Hamilton Depression Scale after only four weeks compared to the placebo group.
Gingko Biloba helps to improve oxygen and blood flow to the brain, helping to reduce symptoms of cerebrovascular insufficiency (decreased blood flow to the brain) which normally results in tinnitus, dizziness, headaches, depression, short-term memory loss, impaired mental performance, carelessness, lack of alertness and caution.
9. Vitamin C
Vitamin C plays a major role in managing the production of cortisol (a stress hormone which induces anxiety and depression). It helps to mediate your stress response and the amount of cortisol that gets released into the bloodstream. Chronic stress and cortisol production leads to adrenal fatigue and depression.
Eating a wide variety of plant foods, will ensure you are getting plenty of vitamin C. When I started consuming a raw vegan diet, high in fruit especially, I was getting over and above my RDA of vitamin C, and I haven’t felt better! (not to mention my immune system got 500x stronger – seriously). Plant-based foods high in vitamin C include lemon, berries, papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts, pineapples, oranges, kiwifruit, cantaloupe, watermelon and cauliflower.
10. Complex Carbohydrates
Maintaining a stable mood is done so by providing the brain with a steady supply of glucose (since that is the brains primary fuel source). Individuals with depression, who are prone to feeling “down” all the time, can help pick up their mood by consuming a high raw fruit-based diet!
Blood glucose balance can be managed by opting for complex carbohydrates (those found in fruit and vegetables) which release energy from food slowly. Complex carbohydrates also help to increase the brains production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, the feel-good chemical, resulting in a calmer, happier state of mind and reduced anxiety.
Simple carbohydrates like those found in refined breads, pastas, cereals, processed foods, and refined sugar (alone or in desserts like cakes, cookies, pies, pastries, soft drinks etc.), and white rice turn us into emotional hurricanes – it is best to stay away from these things.