Treating depression with medication is a long time affair. There are some natural remedies options that really work, which you could try by yourself at home. They will enhance the therapeutic effect of your medicines by improving your symptoms and also shorten the duration of treatment.
These self-help measures involve
- Use of herbal extracts
- Eating the right foods that provide the crucial vitamins and minerals to balance your brain chemicals and function
- Essential oils to elevate your mood
- Some lifestyle corrections that will have a positive impact on your depression symptoms.
These alternative treatments are not a substitute for medical treatment. But with your doctor’s consultation, they can be used along with the medicines as adjuvants to complement your medical therapy.
They could even be tried alone to cure mild depression especially when it sets in during puberty, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menopause and during postpartum depression in women.
In men too, there are causes, which give rise to an episode of mild to moderate depression where these natural remedies will contribute positively. However, always take the guidance of your doctor.
First, let’s talk about what herbal remedies you could try:
St John’s Wort
This is an herb called Hypericum perforatum that has been used for centuries to treat sadness, worry, lack of sleep, nervousness, and depression. It may be helpful in the treatment of symptoms of mild depression.
In the USA, St. John’s wort is classified as a dietary supplement and not yet approved for use in depression. In Europe, however, it is quite popular. It is available in retail health and drug stores as capsules, tablets, liquid extracts and even as tea. If you are on birth control pills, be careful because this herb reduces the potency of the pills.
Ideal dose: 300mg three times a day. If you do not see any improvement, increase the dose to 600 mg/day
SAMe (pronounced Sammy)
SAMe is the short form of S-adenosyl-L-methionine which is a synthetic form of a chemical found in the body. In Europe, it is a prescription drug to treat depression, while in the USA it is still classified as dietary supplement approved for treating depression. Some studies do indicate its effectiveness to treat depression.
Ideal dose: 200mg on an empty stomach twice/day. Increase the dose after every two weeks to a maximum of 600mg twice daily.
This herb has been in use in medicine for thousands of years and is among the highest selling herbs in the US. Its use in mental disorders including mild to moderate depression is known.
It is believed to improve memory and intellectual functions. However, lack of conclusive evidence of its role in treating depression exists. It is available in tablet, capsule and beverage form. This herbal preparation is not to be used if you have diabetes, seizures or bleeding disorders.
Dietary support: What foods to eat to fight depression and why?
The main cause attributed to developing depression is the low level of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter made by the nerve cells of the brain, which helps to transmit messages from the brain. It is responsible for the “good mood” effect on a person.
There are certain foods that enhance the production of serotonin. Eating such foods will help fight the feeling of being depressed.
You should read the symptoms, which will tell you what a depressed person goes through and how he feels.
1. Try not to skip any meal: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
2. Avoid tea and coffee because caffeine reduces serotonin levels.
3. Eat foods that are rich in antioxidants:
- Beta-carotene: apricots, broccoli, carrots, peaches, pumpkin, spinach, sweet potato
- Vitamin C: blueberries, broccoli, grapefruit, oranges, peppers, potatoes, strawberries, tomato
- Vitamin E: nuts and seeds, vegetable oils, whole wheat
4. An amino acid (protein) called tryptophan helps in the synthesis of serotonin. Eat protein-rich foods every day. Such foods include:
- turkey, tuna, and chicken
- beans and peas
- lean beef
- low-fat cheese
- milk products
- soy products
5. Folate and vitamin B12 deficiency is found to make a person feel low. Eating foods that provide these vitamins makes that feeling go away. Your everyday diet should contain folate-rich foods such as legumes, nuts, fruits, and green vegetables. Vitamin B12 can be found in fish and low-fat dairy products.
6. Another finding is that low selenium is linked to poor mood. The following foods can give you your selenium requirement.
- Beans and legumes
- Lean meat (lean pork and beef, skinless chicken and turkey)
- Low-fat dairy products
- Nuts and seeds (particularly brazil nuts – but no more than one or two a day because of their high selenium content)
- Seafood (oysters, clams, sardines, crab, saltwater fish, and freshwater fish)
- Whole grains
7. Include omega3-fatty acid foods. Studies have shown that people whose diet lacks this fatty acid have a 30 percent higher chance of feeling depressed.
- Fatty fish (anchovy, mackerel, salmon, sardines, shad, and tuna)
- Canola and soybean oils
- Nuts, especially walnuts
- Dark green, leafy vegetables
8. Complex carbohydrates are found in
- Green vegetables
- Whole grains and their foods such as oatmeal, pasta, and whole-grain bread.
- Starchy vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, and pumpkin.
- Beans, lentils, and peas.
Natural supplements for depression
- Fish oil supplements. To give you enough of omega3-fatty acids, taking of fish oil supplements will be most helpful.
- B-complex vitamins for reasons explained above.
- 5-HTTP: The amino acid 5-hydroxytryptophan or 5-HTP is a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin. 300 mg daily of 5-HTP can give the same effect as some antidepressants but with fewer side effects.
- Three amino acids–L-Theanine, L-Taurine, and GABA work well for depression. A supplement called Theanine-Serene that contains all three has worked wonders for anxiety and depression. GABA is also a neurotransmitter that when depleted from the brain can cause excessive grief.
- Vitamin D, the champion vitamin, shows its usefulness almost everywhere. According to a Norwegian study, people who took 20,000 and 40,000 IUs of vitamin D supplements per week had significantly fewer depression symptoms after one year. You could also get your vitamin D quota by basking in the sunlight for about 20 minutes every day.
Recent research suggests that nicotine in your cigarette interferes with the functioning of the nerve pathways in the brain that regulate the mood. This interference can lead to mood swings. Depression can make you turn to smoking. Avoid that urge and if you are a smoker, take measures to quit.
Though alcohol in mild doses may not be abusive, in higher doses it causes you to become depressed. It will be good to avoid alcohol altogether because a person who regularly starts drinking may mostly not be able to control and stay within the safe limit of a drink or two.
He is likely to become alcohol dependent and start drinking beyond the safe limits. Depression will tempt you to turn to alcohol and if you are already a drinker, depression will make you drink in excess.
Alcohol in excess will spiral your depression to another level and even negate the effects of your medication.
Exercise has a positive effect not only on your mental state but on the whole body. It increases the antioxidant activity in the body, which helps prevent many health conditions and control existing ones.
The effect of exercise on the mind is a great booster in fighting a depressed mental state. It reduces the feeling of stress and improves the mood, boosts your self-esteem, which is low in a depressed person.
It also provides you with a good sleep, which can have a good therapeutic effect. A simple physical activity like a brisk walk for 30 minutes every day can work wonders.
Meditation is a grossly misunderstood and underestimated subject. It is to the mind what physical exercise is to the body.
Meditation exercises your mind and increases your mental threshold to fight stress and become relaxed. First, learn how it is done and then practice it every day.
A depressed person tends to stay alone and does not feel like being among people because of the feeling of low self-esteem. This can impact depression in a negative fashion.
Interacting with others boosts your feelings of well-being. Research has shown that one sure way of improving your mood is to mix with people you feel comfortable with.
Pray not for yourself but for others especially those who are in some sort of a trouble either mentally or bodily or financially. Make it a regular affair with God.
It will make you feel better and transform you into a nicer person. It will get a big load off your mind.
Being in the place of God with its sublime surroundings will have a calming effect on your mind. The stress vanishes and asking for others will make you more forgiving and will increase your feeling of self-esteem that was lost.