6 Best Natural Treatments For Depression And Low Mood

6 Best Natural Treatments For Depression And Low Mood

December 21, 2018

When it comes to health, Western culture seems to have a quick fix for everything. Trouble falling asleep? Take a pill to knock yourself out. Problem focusing? Take a pill to boost your attention. Feel anxious? Take a pill to calm down.

Winter darkness, chilly gray days and darker evenings often bring on the winter blues. It is estimated that anywhere from 14 to 20 percent of American adults experience seasonal mood changes (1). Western society has moved away from traditional herbal treatments towards prescription medications, but some proven herbal options may be worth trying to treat symptoms of depression and low mood. This blog post is for those who would like to take a more holistic approach to manage their mood and would rather use diet and lifestyle changes, rather than pharmaceuticals, to help themselves. However, if you’re one of them, make sure you always consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment or medications.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), the rate of antidepressant use among teens and adults (people ages 12 and older) in America increased by almost 400% between 1988–1994 and 2005–2008 (2).

Common Signs and Symptoms of Depression

 

If you feel

You might

  • Down, upset or tearful
  • Avoid social events and activities you usually enjoy
  • Restless, agitated or irritable
  • Find it difficult to speak or think clearly
  • Guilty, worthless and down on yourself
  • Lose interest in sex
  • Isolated and unable to relate to other people
  • Have difficulty remembering or concentrating on things
  • Finding no pleasure in life or things you usually enjoy
  • Have no appetite and lose weight, or eat too much and gain weight
  • No self-confidence or self-esteem
  • Have difficulty sleeping, or sleep too much
  • Hopeless and despairing
  • Feel tired all the time

 

Herbal supplements:

1. St. John’s Wort

St. Johns Wort

This is probably the best-known herb used to treat depression. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), St. John’s Wort may help with milder forms of depression (3). A 2008 review of 29 studies of 5489 patients who had depression and used St. John’s wort found that the plant was just as effective as antidepressants, with fewer side effects (4). Be sure to ask your doctor before taking this herbal supplement, as it can make birth control less effective.

2. Curcumin

Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, the Indian spice that imparts the yellow coloring to foods like curry, butter, mustard, and cheese. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. The best way to get the benefits of turmeric is to cook with it. If you don’t think you can cook with it, then take the pill form.

3. Probiotics

The mind-gut connection is becoming clearer every day. Gut flora is part of your immune system, and gut inflammation and its effects on neurotransmitter production contribute to depression. Probiotics secrete biologically active compounds that trigger cells within the gut’s lining to release molecules that signal the brain and affect behavior. I personally like to buy master-brew Kombucha from my local food market and consume this drink 3-4 times a week. Each bottle has approximately 4 billion live probiotics.

4. Rhodiola

Rhodiola, sometimes called Arctic root, is considered an adaptogenic herb. It helps your body deal with stress, which is at the root of most depression. It also benefits you by helping with adrenal fatigue, focus, and attention. People in Russia and Scandinavian countries have used Rhodiola to treat anxiety, fatigue, and depression for centuries.

5. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is known as the "sunshine" vitamin. It is an essential fat-soluble nutrient that helps keep bones healthy and strong, supports cell growth, and benefits immune function. Winter is a great time to tell your doctor to check your vitamin D level. Vitamin D deficiency contributes to hormonal and inflammatory imbalances in the body and may contribute to depression. Its best to get your vitamin D the old-fashioned way, from the sun, but if the sun in your part of the country is on backorder for winter, it's wise to get your vitamin D through supplements.

6. Methylated B Vitamins (methylated folate and methylated B12)

Vitamin B-12 is naturally found in animal products. A vitamin deficiency or low levels of a vitamin in your blood can be caused by diet changes or a malfunction in the way your body absorbs vitamins. An article in 2005 published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology reviewed studies of depression and low vitamin B-12 status. They found significant evidence that correlates a  decrease in vitamin B-12 with an increase in depression (5). The article also stated that high vitamin B-12 levels may be associated with better treatment outcomes for people with depression.


Self-help tips to improve your mental wellbeing

  • Keep active and exercise - exercise uses up extra energy and distracts you from your worries. Your blood starts pumping and you engage muscles you might not normally use, which increases your levels of dopamine (the “happy hormone”).
  • Relaxation techniques- Whenever you feel stressed or anxious, simple breathing exercises can help relieve your symptoms. Try anything from yoga to meditation.
  • Prioritize rest and sleep - Sleep and mood are closely connected; poor or inadequate sleep can cause irritability and stress, while sufficient sleep can enhance your wellbeing.
  • Keep learning - Learning a new skill can give you a sense of achievement and new confidence. Sign up for that cooking class you’ve been putting off, or learn to play an instrument.
  • Connect - Being connected to people is a great way to put life into perspective. Building relationships and social connections helps us feel happier, secure and gives us a greater sense of purpose.

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