Some prefer to try natural depression treatments, particularly in the case of mild to moderate depression, even though antidepressants have been shown safe and effective in treating depression. Some natural depression treatments (aka alternative depression treatments) can be combined with prescribed medical treatments.
It's important to consult a doctor before trying an alternative depression treatment to make sure it is right for you, as these treatments can have unintended side effects just like prescription medication. Supplements and herbal remedies for depression can also interact with over-the-counter and prescription medications.
Herbal Remedies for Depression
A number of natural remedies for depression are in the form of herbs and supplements. The most well-known herbal depression remedy is St. John's wort. This herbal extract has been used as a depression treatment in Europe. While this herb is known as a natural depression treatment, a study by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) showed St. John's wort was no better than a placebo in treating depression of moderate severity.1 Another study is looking into whether St. John's wort is an effective natural antidepressant for treating minor depression.
It's important to note that St. John's wort interacts with many critical medications including those used to treat the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a public advisory in 2000 stating St. John's wort appears to affect an important metabolic pathway and can reduce the effectiveness of drugs such as oral contraceptives and those used to treat illnesses like:2
- Heart disease
- Certain cancers
- Rejection of organ transplants
Another natural remedy for depression is SAMe, short for S-adenosylmethionine. SAMe is a synthetic form of a chemical found in the body and is considered a dietary supplement. In Europe, SAMe is used as a prescription treatment for depression although it is not government approved in North America.3
Omega-3 fatty acids are sometimes considered to be a natural depression treatment. Omega-3 fatty acids are available in supplements but are better absorbed through the diet. Foods high in omega-3s include coldwater fish, flaxseed and walnuts.
Alternative depression treatments are available without a prescription. However, natural depression treatments are not approved for the treatment of depression and are not regulated by the FDA so their reliability can be inconsistent.
Holistic Depression Treatments
People often use holistic depression treatments in addition to medical treatments. Holistic depression treatments often include mind-body treatments, believing the body and mind heal together as one. Examples of holistic depression treatments include:
- Guided imagery
- Massage therapy