Depression is one of the most common forms of mental illness in the United States, with almost 20 million adults developing the condition each year. Although there is medical treatment available, many people are interested in treating their depression naturally, rather than taking possibly-dangerous drugs. There are ways of helping relieve the effects of depression by using all natural treatments, and some people have even found these to be more effective than taking medication.
We are all different, and what works for one person may not work well for another. Finding a natural depression remedy that works for you may take a little experimentation. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the natural remedies available;
Herbal Remedies for Depression
There is a range of natural herbal remedies which can help ease the symptoms of depression and boost your mood.
St John’s Wort
This is a herb that has been used over centuries to reduce emotional distress, anxiety and sadness. It can be very effective in treating the early stages of depression, and the worry and anxiety that goes with it. St John’s Wort can be obtained from health stores or bought online in capsule, tablet or liquid format, and it usually takes 4-6 weeks before the effects are felt.
Caution should be taken if you are taking any other medication, especially antidepressants or contraceptives, as it can reduce the effectiveness of these. Pregnant or breast feeding women should exercise caution when taking St John’s Wort, and it is not recommended for those with liver or kidney problems. St John’s Wort is not usually beneficial for those with severe depression or bipolar disorder.
People who are depressed are often deficient in the B vitamins and folic acid, which is part of the B vitamin complex. Research indicates that there is a link between low folic acid levels and depression, and a lack of folic acid can reduce the effectiveness of prescribed antidepressants. A deficiency in folic acid and the other B vitamins can arise from a poor diet or from taking certain medication. Folic acid supplements can be bought in health stores or drug stores in capsule or tablet form.
This is a chemical produced within the body which helps raise serotonin and dopamine levels. As depression can be caused by a lack of serotonin and other neurotransmitters that regulate mood, taking a SAM-e supplement can help treat depression by boosting production of these.
SAM-e is available in drug stores, health stores, or online, and although it can be expensive it is quite effective. Be aware though that taking a higher dose could cause stomach upsets, nausea and insomnia.
This is a substance produced by the body and is used in the production of serotonin. Taking a 5-HTP supplement can help to boost serotonin levels and reduce anxiety, however it should not be used if you are already taking antidepressant medication as it can affect this. An excess of 5-HTP can cause diarrhea, fatigue, and, rather paradoxically, anxiety.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These are the good fats the body needs for normal functioning of the brain. Depression is thought to be linked to a low intake of Omega-3, and a deficiency can affect the effectiveness of some antidepressant medication. As the body is unable to manufacture Omega-3 it must be obtained through diet.
Some of the best sources of Omega-3 are oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. However, a much easier way of obtaining Omega-3 is by taking fish oil capsules, which are readily available at health stores, drug stores or online.
If you are taking blood thinning medication such as warfarin or aspirin, be aware that fish oil capsules may interact with these.
This can promote improved production of the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin and dopamine. It will also help deliver oxygen-rich blood to the brain cells which improve the brain’s natural functioning. Ginkgo Biloba supplements can be purchased online, or in health or drug stores. It should not be taken in conjunction with antidepressant medication as there is a possibility it could affect these.
Our diet can play a huge part in our health. Unfortunately the modern day diet is often high in fats, sugars and chemicals found in processed foods, and lacking in essential nutrients and vitamins. It is very different from the diet we evolved to eat. This can have an impact in the way our body functions and can make feelings of depression worse.
The best way to eat for optimum health is to limit the amount of processed or junk food you eat, and replace this with a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, legumes, pulses, whole meal bread, brown rice and whole wheat pasta. Your diet should ideally contain a healthy balance of the main food groups- carbohydrate, protein, and healthy fats. Allowing yourself some treats from time to time will make it easier for you to stick to your new healthy eating plan as long as you don’t eat them too often. Be prepared to experiment by making colorful salads and trying out exotic fruits. If you are not used to eating fruit or vegetables, you could try juicing them or making them into smoothies.
Make sure you are not tempted to miss meals; this could cause your blood sugar to drop, leading to mood swings. Eating an excess of sweet things could have the same effect, as they cause your blood sugar levels to spike and then crash, leading to a slump in mood later on.
Socialize With Others On a Regular Basis
Try not to eat alone if possible. Humans evolved as social animals, designed to live, gather food and eat in small groups; spending much of the day by ourselves is actually unnatural for us. Preparing and eating meals with others can help relieve the effects of depression.
Magnesium is a mineral which is required for production of serotonin. It is quite easy to become deficient in it, and it is also depleted by stress. Include foods containing magnesium in your diet; good sources include leafy green vegetables such as spinach or kale, legumes, whole grains, beans, nuts (especially almonds and brazil nuts), sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds.
We have already seen that Omega-3 essential fatty acids can play a part in fighting depression. If you prefer to obtain these from diet rather than taking supplements, good sources include oily fish such as sardines, salmon and mackerel, vegetable oils, flax seeds and walnuts.
There are also certain foods which will help boost the body’s production of serotonin. The body produces serotonin and other neurotransmitters from what is known as precursor substances. These precursors can be obtained from certain foods, and eating these can help boost the production of mood regulating and ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters. These include foods containing Omega-3, porridge, coconut oil, and protein-rich foods such as chicken, turkey, fish, milk, yogurt, nuts and seeds. These foods contain a precursor known as L-Tryptophan, an essential amino acid which is used in the production of serotonin. Certain fruit and vegetables can also boost serotonin levels; these include bananas, tomatoes, pineapple, kiwi fruit, avocadoes, broccoli, cauliflower, egg plant, melon and figs.
Drinking green tea can help reduce symptoms of depression, including anxiety and stress.
Exercise can be a fantastic mood booster and has the added advantage of improving your health and helping you to lose weight, which can only make you feel even better about yourself. When we exercise, protein molecules known as endorphins are released, which help to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety and help us to feel good.
It is important to find a type of exercise you enjoy, as you will be more likely to commit to it regularly; for example there is little point in joining a gym if you hate gyms, as you will find it difficult to motivate yourself to keep going.
It can be hard to find the motivation to exercise if you are severely depressed, but even a ten minute walk round the block can lighten your mood and improve your health. Try building on this by walking a little further each time you go out. Have a goal in mind, such as walking to the store or a local landmark. Planning in regular exercise sessions with familyLet’s face it: how to clean mini blinds isn’t anyone’s all-time favorite subject. We’ve all seen those attractively streamlined mini blinds at our local home improvement centers. They look terrific in their displays, but after staring at them for a minute, many of us ask, “Yes, but what abo and friends can help too; swimming sessions or a bike ride can all be fun. Aim to gradually build up your exercise sessions so that you are exercising for at least thirty minutes five times per week, and you should start noticing a real difference in your mood.
Exercising outside can boost vitamin D levels, a lack of which can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Being outside on a sunny day can also be great for helping you feel good!
Write It Down
A lot of people find that writing down their feelings can be very therapeutic. Someone with depression can find it difficult to talk about how they feel; if this is you, try writing about your feelings instead. You could maybe keep a ‘mood journal’ detailing how you are feeling from day to day. Simply getting the thoughts out of your head and onto paper can be an enormous relief and can help stop thoughts racing through your mind.
You could read your writings from time to time to review the progress you have made, but be careful that reading about your feelings does not cause them to resurface. Some people find that letting a trusted friend or family member read their journal can help communicate what they are going through, however you may prefer to keep your writings private.
Yoga and Meditation
Some people have found that practicing yoga or meditation can help reduce the negative feelings and health issues associated with depression. Yoga is an ancient Indian tradition which works to integrate the body, mind and spirit through a series of exercise, breathing and meditation. Practicing yoga can improve the circulation, promote relaxation and reduce anxiety and stress. It can also help relieve health problems associated with depression, such as insomnia, stomach upsets, memory and concentration.
Most areas have a yoga class running nearby. If you don’t fancy joining a class, you can purchase DVDs which instruct how to practice yoga in the comfort of your own home.
Meditation & Breathing
Meditation has been practiced for centuries in some cultures, but is a fairly new concept for Western societies. When people think about meditation, there is a tendency to imagine a bearded man sitting cross legged in a cave in a trance, but this is not an accurate picture! Meditation involves training the mind to clear it of everyday clutter and maintain a feeling of calm and serenity. Benefits of meditation include a strengthened immune system and improved memory, attention and mood. Many individuals with anxiety and depression find that their thoughts are constantly racing, so being able to still these thoughts and have peace can be a huge relief.
Some people think that being able to meditate effectively takes years of practice, but this is not the case. Just ten or twenty minutes of meditation each day can make a difference and the technique can be picked up in just a few days. Start by finding a quiet space where you will not be disturbed. Give yourself enough time to practice. Close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply. Playing relaxing music could make meditating easier.
Focus on your breathing. Breathe in slowly for a count of three and then breathe out slowly for a count of five. Place a hand on your abdomen as you should be breathing deeply enough to make your abdomen rise rather than your chest. Most of us tend to have very shallow breathing, which can limit the amount of oxygen our lungs receive. Breathing deeply will not only aid meditation and relaxation, but will increase the flow of oxygen in the blood, which is then delivered to all parts of the body, improving bodily functions. There is even evidence to suggest that breathing correctly can reduce stress, anxiety and low mood.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine which has been practiced for thousands of years. Its basis is the belief that we have a vital energy, known as Qi, which circulates through our bodies along twelve lines of energy. These are known as meridian lines, and each one is linked to a particular organ. Once the flow of Qi is interrupted or imbalanced, the natural balance between Yin and Yang, the body’s opposing forces, is disturbed and illness or disease develops.
Long, thin needles of different lengths are inserted in the skin at certain points along the affected meridian line. This is thought to restore the flow of Qi through our bodies, and heal the illness. Other traditional Chinese practices such as massage techniques and Chinese herbs may also be used in conjunction with acupuncture to help restore Qi.
Although there is plenty of evidence to suggest that acupuncture works, it is not known exactly how it works. There are theories that it stimulates circulation, stimulates the production of certain pain relieving or mood enhancing endorphins or has an influence on the electrical currents within the body. Acupuncture can be very effective at improving mood and reducing anxiety. It can also help relieve physical symptoms such as insomnia.
Although acupuncture looks as though it is painful, generally only a slight pricking sensation is felt. Once the needles are in place, you will need to rest quietly for around thirty minutes to allow the treatment to take effect.
Exposure to light stimulates production of serotonin. During the winter months when there is less natural sunlight, production of serotonin can decrease, causing us to develop a low mood and feelings of sadness. This can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
Making sure you get enough sunlight can boost serotonin production and improve your mood. You can purchase light boxes and lights that simulate natural daylight for use during the winter months. These have been proven to reduce symptoms of SAD and promote a feeling of well being.
These were developed by a doctor by the name of Edward Bach at the beginning of the twentieth century. He became disillusioned by medicine methods at the time, and developed flower remedies as a way of treating physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health in a holistic way. Flower remedies can help to combat feelings of suicide, low self esteem, lack of concentration and anxiety.
Flower remedies are supplied in concentrated liquid form with a dropper. They can be taken by either adding to a glass of water and slowly sipping it or putting the liquid under the tongue four times day as directed.
The flower remedies commonly used to treat general depression and bipolar depression include;
Gorse for feelings of hopelessness or resignation
Mustard for feelings of depression or sadness without any apparent cause.
Elm for feelings of overwhelm or anxiety
Willow for feelings of negativity, especially in individuals who tend to blame other people or circumstances for their
Gentian for depression which has a reason or cause, or for those feeling negative.
Sweet Chestnut for feelings of hopelessness or for when a problem appears to have no resolution.
Rescue Remedy is a blend of five different flower remedies which can help reduce feelings of sadness, trauma and stress.
Flower remedies should not replace conventional medicine, and you should inform your doctor if you intend to try them to rule out any adverse effects they may have on prescribed medication. However, there is evidence to suggest that using flower remedies as a complementary therapy can help reduce some of the feelings associated with depression. You can find Bach’s Flower Remedies in health stores or online.
Look After You!
If you are suffering from depression, it can be very easy to neglect to care for yourself properly. This could be because you don’t feel that you are worth looking after, or you might feel completely overwhelmed at the thought of making the effort. However, looking after yourself can be an important step towards your recovery, and can help prevent further episodes of depression from occurring in the future.
If you feel able, make some time every day to give yourself some self-care. Take time to fix your hair, or select an outfit to wear that makes you feel good about yourself. Put some make up on. Making time for these self-care rituals will give your subconscious the message that you are worth taking care of.
Make time to indulge in things that make you feel good. Take a long, hot soak in the bath, take a book to bed, buy yourself flowers, go and have a special coffee in your local café, put on some music you like or create your favorite dinner… be a little selfish. Making sure you eat a healthy, nutritious diet and taking some regular exercise will help improve your mood and health as well.
These Substances May INCREASE Depression
Certain substances can worsen the symptoms of depression, and so their intake should be limited. These include alcohol, which can act as a depressant, and caffeine, which can cause mood swings, anxiety and insomnia.
Much of our food nowadays contains additives such as chemicals which could pose a serious risk to our health. Studies indicate that additives such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) can have a detrimental affect on mental health. Try to limit foods containing these additives by checking food labels thoroughly and reducing the amount of processed food in your diet.
Hopefully this guide has provided some ideas and proven techniques which you can use to treat your depression naturally and find some relief from the symptoms and health problems which go hand in hand with depression. It is intended for advice only and to be used in conjunction with treatment recommended by a medical practitioner. If you feel that you or a loved one may be experiencing the symptoms of depression, you should always seek advice from your doctor or healthcare provider. Depression can be a very complex condition which may require a combination of treatment, and should only be diagnosed and treated by a medical professional.