Antidepressants commonly refer to drugs or medication used for the treatment of major depressive disorder and of other conditions, including some chronic pain conditions, anxiety disorders, and even addictions. All of these conditions are crippling to one’s life and well-being and should be treated seriously. The problem with using drugs and medication to resolve these issues is that they usually come with many adverse side effects on your health.
Natural remedies can help treat your conditions while producing limited (or no) side effects. Often times, these remedies don’t just reduce symptoms of your conditions but improve many other aspects of your life. Below are the top 6 natural antidepressants that should be considered in your treatment plan.
1. Ginkgo Biloba
This herb originated in China and has roots in ancient forms of medicine. It is known to increase blood flow to the brain, boosting energy and improving concentration. Research has not yet linked this herb directly with mood, but one study found it beneficial for attention and memory (common problems experienced with depression) among healthy people. Similar studies have found that an extract of ginkgo biloba (EGb 761) was clinically effective in treating Alzheimer’s dementia: stabilizing and improving cognitive functions.
In an 63-people study of ginkgo biloba, it was found that the Chinese leaf was 84% effective in treating antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction caused predominantly by selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
2. 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)
5-HTP is a naturally occurring compound in your body that increases levels of serotonin, the mood-boosting brain chemical. You can increase the level of 5-HTP in your body by taking health supplements available online and over-the-counter (OTC).
Studies show that taking 5-HTP in doses of 150-3000 mg per day for 2-4 weeks improved symptoms of depression. Some early research even supports that 5-HTP might be as beneficial as antidepressant therapy for some people.
Since 5-HTP increases the synthesis of serotonin, it is also used for the following diseases where serotonin plays an important role:
- Lack of Sexual Desire
- Various Pains
3. B vitamins
B vitamins such as folate, vitamin B-6 and vitamin B-12 all play crucial roles in helping the brain convert amino acids into mood-boosting brain chemicals like serotonin.
Low levels of B vitamins are often linked to depression, as the brain functions poorly. Older adults and people with digestive disorders may have trouble absorbing these vitamins. In addition, vegetarians may not get enough B vitamins through their diets. These groups of individuals are, therefore, advised to take vitamin B supplements to help reduce the risk of depression.
To ensure you’re getting enough B-12 and other vitamins, try to include these following foods in your diet:
- Lean meat
- Legumes (Vegetables & Nuts)
- Leafy greens
- Low-fat and fat-free milk
- Fortified breakfast cereals
If you prefer using supplements, the recommended daily dosage is 800 micrograms (mcg) folate and 400 mcg vitamin B12
4. S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe)
S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAM-e) is a naturally occurring compound found in your body that produces and regulates hormones. The compound is available as oral supplements (in the form of capsules) or intravenously through muscle injections. According to Mayo Clinic, SAM-e is considered a supplement in the U.S. since the FDA doesn’t regard it as medication. In Europe, however, SAM-e is viewed as a prescription drug.
Most people use SAM-e to treat the following conditions:
The compound treats these conditions by regulating hormones and maintaining cell membranes, much like prescription antidepressants.
Some people claim that SAM-e is as effective as prescription medications and kicks in faster (1-2 weeks). In addition, this supplement is favored over prescription drugs because it has a lower risk of side effects. The recommended dosage is 200mg twice a day for a week. Some people take 3-6 doses of 200mg for a maximum of 1,200mg per day. Speak to a health advisor prior to increasing your dosage.
Low zinc levels is one of the leading triggers of low immunity, which subsequently is also an indication of mood issues like depression. In a 2013 study of 44 patients suffering from depression, those who took a zinc supplement with a prescription antidepressant were drastically less depressed after 6 weeks compared to those taking only the antidepressant.
Moreover, zinc is interrelated with mental functions such as learning and memory. According to Nutrition Neuroscience, consuming 25mg of zinc supplement daily for 12 weeks can significantly reduce depression symptoms. Zinc supplements can also increase the amount of healthy omega-3 fatty acids in the body.
Some other foods that are high in zinc levels include:
- Meat (all meats, especially red meat)
- Shellfish (i.e. grab, oysters, shrimp)
- Legumes (i.e. chickpeas, lentils, beans)
- Seeds (i.e. squash, pumpkin, sesame)
- Nuts (i.e. pine nuts, peanuts, cashews)
- Whole Grains (i.e. wheat, quinoa, oats)
- Dark chocolate
6. St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort is a plant originating in Europe, Northern Africa and Western Asia. Similar to SAM-e, this plant has not been approved by the FDA for depression treatment. However, in Europe, people commonly take St. John’s wort as a way to treat depression. In Canada, it is sold as a natural health supplement and not a prescription drug.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), St. John’s wort has the ability to increase the level of serotonin in our bodies, which cures milder forms of depression.
A 2008 review of 29 studies on St. John’s wort found that the plant was just as effective for treating mild to moderate depression as antidepressants, yet resulted in fewer side effects.
St. John’s wort has a long list of major interactions with other medications that should be avoided to prevent adverse outcomes. Some of these medications include:
- Aminolevulinic acid
- Blood thinners
- Narcotic drugs such as morphine and OxyContin
- Birth control pills
- Other antidepressant drugs
- Chemotherapy medications
For a full breakdown of St. John’s wort uses, side effects, and interactions, visit WebMD.com.
Talk to your doctor
Although certain natural supplements show promise in depression treatment, they aren’t consistently reliable. Particularly when you are suffering from severe depression. Depression is a life-altering and serious disease that often arise as a result of several underlying factors. Therefore, don’t just rely on supplements as a way to cope with severe depression symptoms. Work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that works for you. Most importantly, open up with your friends, your family members and yourself, and commit to building a healthy and positive life.
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