If you or a loved one suffers from depression the treatment options you generally have available include pharmaceutical medications, psychological therapies, or natural supplements. Unfortunately, when it comes to natural supplements for depression, there is a large range of options and it is difficult to determine the best option (or options) that are most likely to lead to improvements in your mood. In this article, we review our top 5 natural supplements for depression.
This common cooking spice has received a lot of attention in clinical research but unfortunately is not well known for its antidepressant properties. This is surprising given its extensive body of research confirming its effectiveness in reducing depressive symptoms in people with depression and low mood. Saffron has even been compared to the pharmaceutical antidepressants Prozac® and Tofranil®, and has been found to be as effective, but with fewer side effects. There are even studies showing saffron supplementation can reduce the sexual side-effects commonly observed from taking pharmaceutical antidepressants. Click here to learn about the research on saffron
Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, but fortunately, you only need a tiny about to have therapeutic effects. Studies indicate about 30mg a day is all that is needed, which equates to around $30 to $40 a month. If you choose to purchase saffron, make sure it is a high-quality extract that has undergone clinical research. Given its high cost, saffron is regularly subject to adulteration, so choose carefully.
This herb is the most commonly-known supplement for depression. It has undergone dozens of clinical trials which have generally shown it is an effective, natural supplement for depression. Studies have been conducted on adults suffering from mild-to-moderate depression and the general consensus is that it can improve mood within about 4 to 8 weeks. Unfortunately, the problem with St John’s Wort is that it interacts with so many medications. So, if you are taking any medications (including the contraceptive pill) it is best to look at another option or speak to your health practitioner first. The quality of St John’s Wort extracts also varies significantly, and you generally get what you pay for. Find out about the quality of the specific extract first and see if the specific extract you are buying has undergone clinical investigation.
This nutrient is naturally produced in our body, however, some people are unable to produce sufficient levels due to their genetic profile. SAMe has numerous important roles in the body and is involved in the production of mood-lifting neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. Research has confirmed that SAMe is an effective supplement for depression and can work quickly. However, high levels are generally required, making this supplement a very expensive option. At high levels, many people also complain of constipation.
Research has confirmed that many people with depression are low in levels omega-3 fatty acids and this can have an adverse effect on mood and brain function. Omega-3 fats, which are most commonly found in fatty fish (and some nuts and seeds) have many positive effects on the body. They help reduce inflammation and have important roles in the transmission of brain signals. Research has generally shown omega-3 supplementation to have positive effects on mood. In relation to depression, supplements with higher levels of EPA compared to DHA (types of fats) are best. Choose a high-quality supplement as there is the danger of purchasing fish oil capsules that have gone rancid or contain high levels of mercury. Omega-3 fish oil supplements are unlikely to lead to a dramatic improvement in your mood but may help.
We require B-vitamins such as vitamins B3, B6, and B12 to produce serotonin and dopamine. B-vitamins also have numerous essential roles in the body, so it is important that you have adequate levels. There are some studies showing B-vitamins can help improve mood, and people with depression are at risk of deficiency. Taking a high-quality B-complex can, therefore, help improve mood, energy, and wellbeing. Although it is unlikely to result in dramatic changes in mood, it can certainly be helpful.
There are other natural supplements for depression, however, we have chosen these because they are supported by a good body of research and are generally well-tolerated by most people. However, although natural supplements can be helpful, it is also extremely important you review other areas in your life that might be affecting your mood and then making necessary adjustments. This includes getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, reducing stress levels, optimising your sleep levels, learning and implementing effective coping strategies, and seeking psychological therapy (if necessary). There is no single magic solution, and it is the combination of several strategies that will be the most effective way to improve your mental wellbeing.