Natural Remedies for Depression
Last Updated Dec 2, 2021
Several natural remedies for depression worth trying are St. John’s wort, exercise, and meditation. In some cases, increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids and S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e) may also help.
While these remedies won’t help everyone, many of these approaches carry few (if any) side effects and can often be combined with traditional treatments. Always talk to your doctor if you intend to take medication and supplements or similar herbal treatments together.
What Are Some Natural Remedies for Depression?
Natural treatments are not a substitute for medication and therapy, but they can augment an overall treatment program for depression. Here are some of the natural remedies for depression:
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort has been found to be very effective in the treatment of depression, found in a large meta-analysis to be equivalent to antidepressant drugs in terms of efficacy. It also had fewer side effects than most antidepressant medications.
Because of this, it’s best to talk to a doctor who is knowledgeable about the latest studies on St. John’s wort to assess if it may be an effective option for your needs. While a person should not stop taking medications in favor of St. John’s wort without talking to a medical professional, it may be an option to replace or supplement treatment in some cases.
Exercise has long been associated with boosting mental health, and the available evidence supports that it can help with depression symptoms.
While it can be difficult for people struggling with depression to adopt the lifestyle changes exercise requires, it otherwise has few downsides. Moderate exercise, combined with a reasonable diet and rest periods, is excellent for overall health.
Its mechanism for helping mental health isn’t fully understood, but it’s known to lower cortisol, alter neurotransmitter function, and promote growth of the hippocampus.
Unless a person has other health conditions that may make exercise unusually risky for them, it is almost always a good idea to try adopting an exercise routine if you’re seeking ways to potentially improve your mental and physical health.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
A diet consisting of omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to better mental health.
It has been noted that societies with a high rate of fish consumption show lower depression rates, which is in part attributed to the high omega-3 content of these diets. A scientific article exploring the value of omega-3 in treating depression did note, however, that more research is needed in this area.
Omega-3 can help some people with depression but an important factor (as is the case with all potential treatments) is the cause of that depression. Increasing omega-3 intake is likely to help many patients but may have no effect whatsoever on others.
Some foods high in omega-3 include mackerel, salmon, and a variety of other fish. Some vegetarian options include flaxseed, chia seeds, and some nuts.
S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e) supplements can help increase a person’s SAM-e levels, which may be low in people suffering from depression. This is a naturally occurring molecule in human cells, involved in the methylation cycle.
This process is important for a number of important bodily functions related to the brain, such as receptor function and neurotransmission.
While there is evidence that SAM-e can help treat depression, more studies are needed. It can sometimes carry notable negative side effects, including increased levels of anxiety, and it is relatively expensive at therapeutic doses.
It is worth reading the most recent research into SAM-e, but many people may want to try other treatments before SAM-e due to its cost and the limited, though present, evidence that it can help.
Regular meditation has been linked to improved mental health, including aiding stress and anxiety management. Experts note that meditation can essentially train the brain to react differently to negative feelings, altering the way your mind and body react to stressors.
Meditation has also been linked to protecting the hippocampus, with people who meditate at least 30 minutes a day showing more gray matter on average than those who don’t.
Meditation isn’t necessarily easy for people at first, and people looking to try it may want to try group sessions or well-reviewed guided meditation videos or audio programs to ensure they understand the process.
With time and effort, meditation is known to help mental health in many people. It carries virtually no downsides beyond a small time commitment.
When to See a Doctor for Depression
The above remedies have been linked to improved mental health and may help in the treatment of depression, but they’re also not guaranteed to work for all people.
If your mental health has a significant negative impact on your quality of life or your relationships, it is important to see a licensed medical professional for further guidance.
In some cases, they can help prescribe medications that are not available over-the-counter to help your mental health further. They can also help provide an accurate diagnosis of the specific mental health issues you may struggle with, which can help you receive more targeted treatment.
Incorporate natural remedies for depression into your daily life, but make sure to continue your work with your doctor and therapist to best treat your depression.
Complementary and Alternative Medicine for the Treatment of Major Depressive Disorder. (June 2011). Canadian Family Physician.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Mood Disorders. (October 2020). Harvard Health Publishing.
Intense Exercise Promotes Adult Hippocampal Neurogenesis But Not Spatial Discrimination. (January 2017). Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience.
S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe) in Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): A Clinician-Oriented Systematic Review. (September 2020). Annals of General Psychiatry.
Mindfulness Practice Leads to Increases in Regional Brain Gray Matter Density. (January 2011). Psychiatry Research.
How Meditation Helps With Depression. (February 2021). Harvard Health Publishing.
The Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression. (May 2015). Occupational Medicine.