Depression can take you to a dark and lonely place in mental, emotional, and physical ways. But there is always hope. Whether you suffer from mild or severe symptoms, there may be natural remedies for mild-moderate depression that can help you improve your symptoms. These natural treatments include lifestyle and dietary changes as well as increased physical activity.
This common mental disease can affect the mind and body in ways that can be debilitating. More than 450 million people worldwide suffer from depression.
Depression is diagnosed when a low state of mind persists over a period of at least two weeks, along with a change in self-image and sleeping and eating habits. Reduced energy and concentration levels are also observed.
Best Natural Remedies for Depression
The conventional treatment for depression is antidepressants, but they may be ineffective for some people with mild to moderate depression. As a result, some may choose to explore non-drug-based treatments for depression.
Let’s take a quick look at seven safe and effective natural remedies for depression.
1. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Deficiencies in omega-3 fatty acids are often associated with depression symptoms. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in particular is considered a natural serotonin booster, and studies show that it can improve mood better than antidepressants.
However, a 2015 review of available research suggests there is insufficient evidence to recommend omega-3s for depressive symptoms in all cases. It did suggest, though, that omega-3s may help in certain circumstances depending on the cause of depression.
For example, if a person is low in dietary omega-3 fatty acids and that deficiency is resulting in depression, including more omega-3s in the diet may help.
The best dietary sources of EPA include wild salmon, herring, or mackerel.
2. Magnesium and Calcium
Both magnesium and calcium are effective for depression.
A magnesium deficiency may lead to depression symptoms, so having adequate levels may help prevent or treat depressive bouts. Because depression is a multifactorial condition, magnesium may not benefit everyone. Getting blood magnesium levels checked and including a magnesium supplement or eating more magnesium-rich foods like leafy green vegetables, avocado, nuts and legumes can help bring blood levels back to normal.
A 2012 review also suggests that low dietary calcium is associated with depression. The study drew its conclusion based on self-reporting of depressive symptoms and a nutritional analysis. To enhance calcium absorption, adequate vitamin D is needed. Magnesium also helps calcium’s expression.
Calcium is known to help regulate nervous system impulses, and it is important for neurotransmitter production. However, as excessive amounts of calcium will often lead to calcification, magnesium is necessary to prevent calcium deposits and precipitation.
3. 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)
The amino acid tryptophan is responsible for the production of serotonin. Tryptophan will convert to 5-HTP before it produces serotonin.
Several studies have found that 5-HTP is as effective as antidepressants for depression. It is also less expensive with fewer side effects. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that many of 5-HTP’s reported benefits come from animal studies. Knowledge of its effects on humans remains somewhat limited.
One concern of taking 5-HTP is that it may lead to serotonin syndrome if taken in excess. Serotonin syndrome can lead to serious neurological complications. If you’re taking it as an over-the-counter supplement, buy from a trusted manufacturer and stick to the recommended dose.
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is essential for good bone health, and suggest an association with depression. Research has uncovered that people with depressive symptoms often show low blood levels of vitamin D. This is even more common in people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
You can learn if you’ve got low vitamin D levels by getting a blood test and treating it accordingly. If levels are low, you may notice improvements in depressive symptoms through supplementation. It is unknown, yet unlikely, if vitamin D supplementation would have an antidepressant effect in people with adequate blood levels.
5. Vitamin B
Vitamin B9 combats fatigue and irritability, while vitamin B12 increases energy and helps the neurological system. These vitamins promote the natural production of serotonin, which controls our mood, sleep, appetite, and pain receptors.
According to Harvard Health, studies have shown that a lack of serotonin may be linked to depression.
Once again, these vitamins may only produce antidepressive results if you’re currently deficient.
6. St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort is a controversial herbal remedy for mild to severe depression symptoms. The Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve the use of the herb to treat depression as results vary in studies.
The National Institutes of Health published a study of 29 trials which suggested that St. John’s wort offered the same results as prescribed antidepressants without all the side effects. It may boost serotonin levels and replace prescription selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
St. John’s wort may also interfere with antidepressant medications to either reduce effectiveness of treatment or make symptoms worse. It might work for some people, but is not recommended.
Moreover, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health reported that two of their studies showed no difference between the herb and placebo.
7. Healthy and Balanced Diet
Neurotransmitters in the brain influence our mood and energy. These message carriers are fueled by the food we eat.
A 2009 five-year study published in The British Journal of Psychiatry showed that those following a diet regime of healthy foods might have reduced depression symptoms as well as a lower risk of developing depression.
These foods will help prevent depression symptoms from developing:
- Fruits and vegetables: Foods with high levels of folate will help with depression, such as beets, broccoli, spinach, avocado, and asparagus. Antioxidant foods such as cranberries, blueberries, goji berries, blackberries, and artichokes may help stabilize a chemical imbalance that can lead to depression.
- Lean protein: Protein balances hormones, promotes good neurological function and mood, and increases energy levels. Consume wild-caught fish, organic chicken, grass-fed beef, free-range eggs, black beans, lentils, bone broth protein powder, and yogurt.
- Probiotic foods: These foods boost energy levels, concentration, and thought processes, as well as stimulate positive thinking. Consume raw cheese, yogurt, kefir, miso, fermented vegetables, and kombucha.
8. Cannabidiol (CBD)
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is derived from the Cannabis sativa plant and has grown in popularity in recent years as a natural remedy for a number of conditions. One area, which is rather promising, involves mood and depression.
Studies dating back to 2014 have indicated CBD may act as an antidepressant or anti-anxiety remedy. Most studies, however, have been conducted using animal models and more human trials are needed.
CBD appears to work by activating the brain’s endocannabinoid receptors to produce calming or antidepressant effects. In some states, it is legal to buy as an OTC supplement, while in others you would need a prescription.
Lifestyle Changes to Overcome Depression
Here are eight effective lifestyle changes to help treat and prevent depression symptoms.
Clinical studies show that acupuncture treatment might help alleviate depression by calming the nervous system.
In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, electro-acupuncture treatment was shown to have the same effect on depression as the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac). However, a review published in Intervention in 2018 concluded that acupuncture provided “low-quality” benefits when used independently or as complementary therapy.
The good thing about acupuncture is that it’s not harmful, so you can try it with no adverse side effects. It might have some benefits for you, but it likely won’t do much.
If you’re feeling depressed, it may help to head to a yoga studio for a restorative yoga class. Practicing yoga is a relaxing, calming way to provide relief for depression and feelings of anxiety.
Yoga may work by enhancing relaxation and lowering levels of perceived stress, which can have an anti-anxiety and antidepressant effect.
Meditation may also help.
Doing any form of exercise may be difficult for those dealing with depression as many are unmotivated to move and prefer to be secluded. However, physical activity has been shown to stimulate endorphin production, which is also referred to as “feel good” triggers. Furthermore, depression and stress may be alleviated by the release of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine hormones.
By simply walking at least 20 minutes each day, the brain may switch to transmitting positive thoughts. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, swimming, participating in yoga and meditation, or joining a fitness class can also help.
Sleep can be hard to come by for most people, and this is especially so during a bout of depression. Positive mental, emotional, and physical well-being depends on adequate sleep—not only in length but also in quality. A lack of sleep can lead to stress, anxiety, irritability, anger, and depression.
Improve sleep by avoiding the use of electronics, including the TV, at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Instead, prepare for bedtime with meditation, reading, or listening to soft music.
A few drops of lavender essential oil on bedsheets or the back of the neck may also help. Also consume warm goat’s milk with Manuka honey before going to bed and avoid eating meals two to three hours before laying down.
5. Social Relationships
Any health condition or ailment needs emotional and physical support, including depression. Since depression may be the result of a perceived lack of purpose and low self-image and confidence, it is important to reach out for support.
This support may come in the form of a network of trustworthy friends and family, a professional counselor, or religious and spiritual groups.
In fact, the University of Michigan released a 2013 study outlining the positive effects of personal relationships on a depressed state of mind.
6. Light therapy
According to studies, a vitamin D deficiency may cause depression due to a lack of exposure to natural sunlight.
Researchers at the University of South Australia studied this relationship based on evidence from more than 2,000 years ago. Their work suggests spending at least 20 minutes in sunlight daily.
Many times, when natural sunlight is less available, light therapy is used. This form of treatment involves the use of a “light box” or lamp on a daily basis.
7. Cold Showers
Another natural way to combat stress hormones that contribute to depression is with cold water therapy. A successful treatment in clinical trials, bathing in cold water reduces stress hormones by triggering the sympathetic nervous system. Cold water also helps balance serotonin levels.
Hydrotherapy has been shown to improve mood by manipulating the force and the temperature of the water. This water treatment is often used at spa relaxation retreats in the form of balneotherapy, which uses different techniques than hydrotherapy but still focuses on water use.
A polar dip, cold shower, or an ice bath may be difficult to undertake at first. So, you can try a cold water rinse to become accustomed to these treatment methods.
A cold shower should be viewed as more of an immediate, short-term solution to depressive symptoms when you’re feeling down as opposed to an ongoing form of treatment.
8. Goal Setting
Sometimes depressive symptoms can set in from a lack of motivation or purpose. Setting short- and long-term goals can help you stay on task and experience the joy of purpose and accomplishment. These goals can occur daily, weekly, monthly and beyond to provide motivation to get up and put forth your best effort, while providing a reward at the end.
The Final Word: What Else Can You Do?
Although many people wake up to and enjoy a morning cup of coffee, it can be best to avoid stimulants that could affect the brain, like alcohol or caffeine.
Also, make sure your diet is rich in B vitamins, chromium, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D, and selenium.
Finally, don’t forget to speak with your doctor, a friend, or a loved one about any depression symptoms you may be experiencing. Just remember that you are never alone.
Also Read :
- Depression Treatment: Are Antidepressants Worth It?
- Depression Treatment: The Pros and Cons of Antidepressants
- Depression: How to Improve Your Mental Health without Drugs
- 14 Effective Homeopathic Remedies for Depression
- Vipassana Meditation: Can It Help Relieve Depression Symptoms?
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