Natural Antidepressant Alternatives
In the past several decades the intake of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) antidepressants in the United States has increased by 400%. On average, 1 in 10 Americans is taking one of the many common antidepressants.
According to statistics provided by the reputable U.S. vendor IMS Health, about 14% of Americans need to take antidepressants daily for a 10-year period or longer. Many of these people take prescription and OTC antidepressant drugs for their whole life.
Major symptoms of depression
If you are wondering how to treat depression, at first consider checking the list of the most common signs of this mental disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health lists major symptoms of depression as:
- Constant sad, anxious mood or feeling “numb”;
- Pessimism and hopelessness;
- Feeling “slowed down”;
- Feeling guilty, worthless, helpless without any reason;
- Decreased energy and increased fatigue;
- Loss if interest to any entertaining activities or hobbies;
- Thoughts of death and suicide;
- Difficulties with concentration, memory and making decision;
- Irregular sleeping patterns, like insomnia or oversleeping;
- Constant weight changes;
Oral antidepressants: side effects and potential risks
Zoloft, Prozac, Lexapro, Celexa, and Paxil, which belong to the list of the most prescribed antidepressants in the United States, are mostly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The use of these antidepressants can be relevant only if the depression is caused by low serotonin levels. Serotonin is one of the major neurotransmitters that may affect the elevated mood, libido, learning skills, and memory. SSRIs can be helpful in improving the misbalance of serotonin in the brain and in such way slow down the symptoms of depression.
However, the SSRIs may also cause a number of side effects and health risks:
- According to some health care specialists, SSRIs work only for 60% of people with depression;
- The Mayo Clinic staff names such side effects of the SSRIs –nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, agitation, insomnia, headaches, dry mouth, loss of libido, drowsiness, nervousness;
- Most SSRIs may be addictive when taken for a long time;
- SSRIs can also trigger the withdrawal symptoms including lethargy, flu-like symptoms, and nausea;
- SSRIs may cause brain zaps – which resembles an electric shock to your brain that spreads all over the body. Brain zaps can be accompanied by vertigo, lightheadedness, and disorientation.
Taking into account all these possible risks from taking the SSRIs, you may give a try some alternative natural cures for depression.
The alternative to pills: top 5 natural depression remedies
If you are wondering how to cure depression, or just how to positively change it a little bit, at home by means of natural remedies, you may try using one of the following choices. However, bear in mind that even science-backed herbal antidepressants may not have any affect on the symptoms of moderate-to-severe depression. Consult your therapist or health care provider before starting to take any of these natural antidepressants:
S-adenosyl methionine (SAM-e)
It is a natural compound that can be found in the most cells of a human body. The results of more than 40 clinical trials involving about 23000 of participants with depression claim that SAM-e may be helpful in improving the serotonin levels without causing side effects possible when taking the SSRIs. SAM-e can’t be taken with Demerol, Levodopa, Ultram, or Robitussin DM.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Mostly found in wild fish (trout, salmon, and sardines), omega-3 fatty acids can improve memory skills and stabilize the hormonal balance in the brain. Eating wild fish at least 3 times a week can be helpful in elevating the mood and energy in people suffering from depression.
This amino acid can raise serotonin levels by stimulating the development of the new blocks of serotonin in the affected brain. Some scientists believe that tryptophan may be also good for treating anxiety disorders, seasonal affective depression, mentally caused eating disorders, and memory loss.
Scientifically known as Crocus sativus, Saffron may improve the symptoms of the mild-to-moderate depression. Sometimes it is compared with fluoxetine (the active ingredient of Prozac) because it may also stimulate serotonin metabolism. In addition to its anti-depressive properties, Saffron can offer anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotective effects. If you consume this spice with the SSRIs, the side effects of the pills can be reduced.
Arctic root, or Rhodiola Rosea, is a traditional Scandinavian and Chinese medicine that is applied for improving physical stamina and reducing fatigue caused by stress. Arctic root may decrease depression symptoms – according to some user reviews, within a week.
Potentially dangerous natural supplements for depression
Many people who suffer from depression tend to name 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) and St. John’s wort as the most effective natural remedies for depression. However, a few recent studies have challenged this point of view by proving that these 2 particular supplements may be potentially dangerous:
- 5-HTP is believed to be a powerful insomnia and depression cure. But more than 100 studies claim that 5-HTP depression supplements shouldn’t be mixed with an oral prescription or OTC antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, or sleeping pills because of possible complications. Also, these studies have shown that 5-HTP may be harmful when simultaneously taken with the natural depression remedies like kava, l-tryptophan, valerian root, SAM-e, or St. John’s wort.
- St. John’s wort, which is one of the most popular herbal antidepressants, may cause side effects similar to the SSRIs. The possible adverse reactions of St. John’s wort are dizziness, panic attacks, anxiety, nausea, and hypertension.
Potentially helpful depression supplements and vitamins
In addition to the above-mentioned herbal depression supplements, you may consider including the following vitamins and nutrients in your diet:
- B vitamins;
- Vitamin D;
Consider eating more fresh vegetables, nuts, wild fish, fruits, and organic foods rich in these vitamins and nutrients.
At first, some herbs and supplements capable treating depression naturally may seem like a safer and more available alternative to the use of prescription pills, but only a health care specialist can decide whether using just natural cures is enough to cope with depression in every individual case.