For centuries before the rise of modern psychiatry and psychology, what we today consider alternative depression remedies were quite the norm. From herbs to aromatherapy, there are numerous different approaches that some people find more appealing than today’s antidepressants and psychotherapy. A lot of patients simply cannot afford modern medications and doctors visits, or their current treatment may just not be working as they had hoped. For those that wish to try other methods to treat their depression they might be able to find some relief in alternative or natural remedies.
While some of these therapies have been used for years, scientific research on their efficacy for treating depression and other illnesses is still lacking. It is very important that before starting on any type of non-medical treatment for any illness or condition that you keep a few things in mind.
Always consult with a doctor before starting any other type of treatment. This is especially vital if you are currently taking any medications. Some herbs may have negative interactions with other drugs or interfere with the effectiveness of medications being taken. They may also have side effects that may worsen certain health conditions. Speak to your doctor about any plans or wishes to try natural remedies and make sure it is safe to do so.
If currently on antidepressants it is crucial to not stop taking them on your own just try another method. Reducing or stopping the taking of depression medications should only be done with the guidance and supervision of a psychiatrist or primary care physician.
Alternative depression remedies may be able to produce positive results for some people with more mild to moderate forms of depression. However, those suffering from serious major depression or psychosis may not see any results and seeking or staying with a trained psychiatrist or mental health professional is advised.
It is better to be safe than sorry and it helps to talk with a doctor beforehand for a little peace of mind. They might also have some experience with alternative depression remedies and might be able to offer some valuable advice or precautions.
Alternative Depression Remedies – Herbs & Supplements
St. John’s Wort: Probably the most popular herb used to treat mild depression or enhance mood. It is also effective against insomnia and anxiety related to depression. Two chemicals found in St. John’s Wort, hyperforin and hypericin, are believed to play a role on its ability to improve mood and lessen depression symptoms. There is some scientific evidence that validates its effectiveness against depression with more research ongoing.
Its use, however, does not come without some risks. It is not recommended for pregnant or breast-feeding women, Alzheimer’s patients, patients about to undergo anesthesia or surgery or those trying to conceive a child as it may pose infertility risks. Patients with mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, major depression or ADHD should also avoid using the herb. St. John’s Wort also has adverse reactions or interactions with a host of medications. For this reason, anyone taking a prescription drug should consult with their physician before taking St. John’s Wort.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Japan has a 10 times lower depression rate than the US and studies have shown similar results in countries where a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids is prevalent. This type of fat, common in fish such as salmon and sardines, helps promote brain function. It is also used to promote heart and skin health as well. Increasing dietary intake of fish or taking omega-3 capsules can have tremendous health benefits.
SAM-e (S-Adenosyl Methionine): This is a synthetic form of a natural compound found in the body believed to raise the level of neurotransmitters in the brain, specifically serotonin and dopamine. It has been widely prescribed by doctors in Europe for a couple of decades for depression and joint aches and is one of the more expensive over the counter supplements that is available in the US. It has shown positive results in alleviating mild depression symptoms but it is not recommended for mood disorders where manic symptoms may be involved such as bipolar disorder.
Folic Acid and Vitamin B6 and B12: Low levels of folic acid and B12 have been linked to decreased effectiveness of antidepressant medications. Folic acid deficiency may result from a diet low in green and leafy vegetables, or as a result of taking certain medications such as birth control pills. Vitamin B6 plays a role in neurotransmitter production and a deficiency may also result from taking contraception pills or other drug therapies.
Magnesium: This also plays a role in neurotransmitter production and stress works to deplete the body of magnesium. It can be found in nuts, grains and vegetables as well as in supplement form.
Saffron: More research is needed on using saffron for depression but some individuals report positive results with dealing with depression symptoms.
Various types of therapies including acupuncture, yoga and aromatherapy have been used for years, sometimes centuries, as a means of treating different ailments and promoting overall health. While more research is needed, many people swear by some of these methods and report many positive results.
Acupuncture: Dating all the way back to ancient China, acupuncture works on the theory of stimulating specific points in the body with tiny needles in the skin to restore the bodies natural energy balance. It has long been used to treat pain, nausea and infertility. Not enough research has been done to say without a doubt that acupuncture may help with depression but some studies have shown positive results in dealing with some of the symptoms of depression.
Aromatherapy: This type of treatment aims to enhance and improve one’s mood through the use of fragrance and fragrant oils. Scents such as jasmine, sandlewood, orange blossom, clary sage or basil may help relieve depression symptoms and anxiety. Those currently taking antidepressants may try aromatherapy since it will not interfere with depression medications.
Relaxation Methods: Methods such as yoga, meditation, message therapy and hypnosis have been used to alleviate depression by promoting relaxation and altered states of conciousness. Relaxing the body can help slow down the mind and ease stress.
A lot of individuals have experienced very positive results using a variety of these alternative depression remedies and treatments despite lack of scientific proof as to their effectiveness.
Diet and Exercise
Probably the simplest, and cheapest, things someone could do to improve their mood is to improve their diet and exercise routine. Those who are depressed generally do not eat properly or exercise enough.
Diet: Eating more fresh foods, in particular fruits and vegetables, can have tremendous benefits to a person’s overall health and feeling of well being. Reducing the amount of processed foods, high fat foods and lowering sugar and caffeine intake has been shown to help with depression and anxiety symptoms. More nutrient dense foods like fruits and vegetables can provide an immediate impact. Juicing is also a great alternative for those who do not particularly like eating salads or snacking on produce.
Exercise: Depressed patients often feel lethargic and lack energy, but increasing movement and physical activity can trigger the release of certain chemicals in the brain called endorphins which alleviate some of the feelings of stress and pain. Becoming physically healthier can carry over into becoming mentally healthier as well.
For those with more mild forms of depression there may be viable natural and less costly methods to fight some of their symptoms. As always, you should seek the advice of a medical doctor before starting on any plan or alternate form of treatment, especially if you are taking antidepressants or any other type of medication. Sometimes depression relief can found in the most unexpected places.