The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a number medications for the treatment of depression. If you live with depression but opt not to take one of these medications, you still have other options. Some people look to herbs and natural remedies to find relief from their symptoms.
Many of these remedies have been used medicinally for centuries as folk and alternative treatments. Today, many herbs are marketed as mood boosters for people who experience chronic feelings of sadness or hopelessness.
Studies have attempted to track the benefits of herbs for treating depression. Here are several herbs that may help lift your mood when you experience mild to moderate depression.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are a healthy type of fat found in fish such as salmon, trout, and sardines. They’re available in supplement form and are sometimes called fish oil capsules. According to reports, researchers have found that people who have low levels of two brain chemicals found in fish oil supplements may be at an increased risk of depression. It’s ideal to get a higher ratio of DHA to EPA, which are both types of omega-3 fatty acids.
In addition to taking fish oil supplements to get omega-3 fatty acids, you can also increase the amount of fish you eat. Eating fish three times a week can increase your omega-3 fatty acids without the aid of supplements.
Keep in mind that some fish can have high levels of mercury. These include swordfish, tilefish, king mackerel, and shark. Avoid these in favor of fish with lower levels of mercury, such as light canned tuna, salmon, freshwater trout, and sardines.
Saffron is a spice derived from a dried portion of a crocus, a flower in the iris family. According to a study in Alternative Medicine Review, taking saffron stigma (the end of the carpel, or rod-like stem, in the flower) has been shown to be effective in treating mild to moderate depression.
There may be a link between low levels of folic acid (the synthetic form of folate) and depression. Taking 500 micrograms of folic acid has been linked with improving the effectiveness of other antidepressant medications.
One way to increase your folate levels is to consume folate-rich foods daily. These include beans, lentils, fortified cereals, dark leafy greens, sunflower seeds, and avocados.
Zinc is a nutrient linked with mental functions such as learning and behavior. Low levels of blood zinc are associated with depression, according to an analysis in Biological Psychiatry.
According to Nutrition Neuroscience, taking a 25-milligram zinc supplement daily for 12 weeks can help reduce depression symptoms. Taking zinc supplements can also increase the amount of available omega-3 fatty acids in the body.
Health food stores may market herbs and supplements as being able to treat depression. However, according to a review published in BJPsych Advances, several of these treatments haven’t been shown to be effective in treating depression. These include the following herbs:
If you do choose to use these or other herbs, always check with your doctor first to make sure they won’t interact with any medication you might be taking.
Also note that herbs and supplements are not monitored by the FDA, so there may be concerns about purity or quality. Always buy from a reputable source.
Although some herbs and supplements show promise in treating depression, they aren’t a consistent or reliable option when you experience severe depression. Don’t rely on supplements as a way to pull you through severe depression symptoms. Depression can be a serious disease. Work with your doctor to find a treatment plan that works for you.