Natural Treatments for Depression

Gattaca:Would you recommend combining St. John's Wort with gingko? I have read the increased blood flow is beneficial in itself from the gingko and also helps deliver the SJW more effectively. I have seen combined tablets at 300mg SJW with 60mg gingko, 3 times a day. What range of doses would you recommend for the gingko?

Syd Baumel: Not being a clinician, I hesitate to recommend, but the dosage you cite is right in the pocket as far as average therapeutic dosages for the two herbs are concerned. Also, because at least one placebo-controlled study has found that Ginkgo can augment antidepressant drugs it stands to reason that it might do the same for herbs like SJW which appear to work via identical or very similar mechanisms. In general, combos are both potentially riskier and potentially more likely to help.

David: Here are a few audience comments on what's been said, so far, tonight, then we'll continue with the questions:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.: I have been bipolar all my life. I found out 13 years ago I was manic depressive and have been on medicines for 13 years. I also do fitness 4 times a week. It has helped me in so many ways. I'm not 100 percent but I can deal with a lot more in my life.

WildWindTeesha:Who feels like doing aerobics when they are depressed!?

finngirl:Cardiovascular exercise 3 times a week increases endorphins and natural chemicals.

bladedemon:I'm willing to try anything right now. Nothing works as far as a meds.

finngirl:Natural is closer to not having any depression - if you can take an over the counter herb you're not all that depressed. It is just what the people perceive of their own reality.

Syd Baumel: I love the comment about not feeling like doing aerobics when you're depressed. How true, but it's true of many things that go together with depression in either a vicious cycle or a healing cycle. That is: depression disturbs your sleep, makes you lazy, makes you withdraw from people and from activities, makes you less assertive, makes you get sloppy about eating well, makes you question your spiritual values and beliefs, and on and on and on. Yet, if you can - with a little help from your friends, a "professional," or your own bootstraps - go against the grain on these depressive tugs, there is so much evidence that you can reverse the tide.

Of course, the milder the depression, the easier it is to perform this reversal, but even in hospitalized depressives with severe depression, exercise on the side (for example) has been found to significantly improve their response to standard therapies.

David: Here's an audience member's comment which addresses just that point, Syd:

ddoubelD: I decided recently that I am going to do everything I can think of to take care of my physical, mental, and emotional health, and just that decision has made me feel better cause I am taking charge.

Syd Baumel: Talk about hitting a nail right on the head. Feeling out of control - helpless, hopeless - is one of the defining hallmarks of depression. But again, if you can do anything that makes you feel even just a little bit in control again, you will almost certainly feel that much better.

David: Here's the next audience question:

finngirl: How do the natural approaches affect levels of serotonin?

Syd Baumel: Many if not most natural approaches have been shown to have a positive effect on brain levels of serotonin. This is true not only of chemical approaches like tryptiophan and 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), which the brain make serotonin FROM, but also of other chemical approaches that facilitate either serotonin's synthesis or that, like most antidepressant drugs, increase its potency in the brain (e.g. SJW, Ginkgo). The interesting thing is that several lifestyle or non-chemical antidepressants (e.g. exercise, acupuncture) have also been shown to increase brain serotonin.

There are a few books that deal with natural serotonin boosters, including my own (Serotonin) and a good one by psychiatrist Michael Norden, entitled Beyond Prozac.

David: Here's the link to the Depression Community. You can click on this link and sign up for the mail list at the top of the page so you can keep up with events like this.

Here's the next question:

Kellijohn: Can you give maximum dosage on the PMS herbs? How quickly can persons see results?

Syd Baumel: I've just rather frantically checked my book, but to no avail as far as Vitex is concerned. Black cohosh, which may also alleviate PMS, is usually taken at a dose of 40 to 200 mg per day. Vitamin B6 - an old standby - usually seems to work in the 50-200 mg range, if memory serves. I'm honestly, offhand, not sure of how long it tends to take to see a response, but these things tend to take weeks rather than days.

David: Several of our audience members want to know what natural treatments you take and what effect have they had on your depression and well-being?

Syd Baumel: I've had the most bang for buck from L-phenylalanine - a low dose of (usually) 400 or 500 mg every morning on a "protein-free stomach" for optimal absorption by the brain. I've also - much more recently - noticed a kind of "stress guard" effect from a modest dosage of St Johns Wort. This is on top of a nutritious, low junk-food vegetarian (vegan, since last summer) diet and a few other odds and ends. The effect has been that - for the last twenty or so years - when I get down, it's a) not nearly as frequent as before, b) typically very mild, and c) also very short-lived. If I had to quantify it, I'd estimate that my degree of suffering and impairment from depression has been about 15% of what it was prior to my breakthrough with phenylalanine.

David: What do you mean by "stress guard" effect?

Syd Baumel: About the stress guard effect: What I mean is that I noticed, after I first began using a properly standardized St Johns Wort product, that I wasn't getting as perturbed, bothered, disturbed etc. as I expected I would be by the great amount of stress in my life at the time.

David: Thank you, Syd, for being our guest tonight and for sharing this information with us. And to those in the audience, thank you for coming and participating. I hope you found it helpful. We have a very large and active community here at You will always find people in the chatrooms and interacting with various sites.

Also, if you found our site beneficial, I hope you'll pass our URL around to your friends, mail list buddies, and others.

David: Thank you again Syd for being our guest tonight.

Syd Baumel: It was my pleasure and privilege to be your guest. Thanks to everyone who came to listen and participate.

David: Good night everyone and I hope you have a pleasant weekend.

Disclaimer: We are not recommending or endorsing any of the suggestions of our guest. In fact, we strongly encourage you to talk over any therapies, remedies or suggestions with your doctor BEFORE you implement them or make any changes in your treatment.


next: Grieving the Different Losses in Your Life
~ all articles on transcripts
~ all articles on depression

Last Updated: 31 March 2017
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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