Depression is a mental health condition affecting millions of people worldwide. In the United States alone, it affects more than 17 million adults. However, the number is thought to be high as many people don’t seek treatment because of stigma and many other reasons. In this article, we will look at herbs and supplements for depression.
Depression is known as depressive disorder, if symptoms are irritable mood, sadness, feeling of emptiness, and cognitive changes that affect functioning.
Depressive disorder is classified into:
- Disruptive mood dysregulation disorder.
- Persistent depressive disorder.
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
- Major depressive disorder (MDD)
- Depressive disorder due to other medical conditions.
Depressive disorders are mainly treated with psychotherapy and medication. Furthermore, lifestyle modifications such as taking herbs and supplements, making dietary changes, may also help recover from depression.
Herbs and Supplements for Depression
Rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea)
Rhodiola, also known as the arctic root, or golden root, is a herb that grows in the cold mountain regions of Asia and Europe.
Its roots are classified as adaptogens, meaning they help the body adapt to stress.
The root has over 140 active ingredients, but only two are useful which are salidroside and rosavin.
In a study investigating the effects of Rhodiola extract, 101 people with work and life-related stress were given 400g each day for four weeks.
The study noted significant improvements in stress symptoms such as anxiety, fatigue, and exhaustion just after three days.
Depression occurs when neurotransmitters are unbalanced in your brain. Rhodiola has antidepressant properties, helping balance the neurotransmitters in your brain.
In a 6-week study on the effects of Rhodiola on symptoms of depression, on two groups of 90 people with moderate depression. One group was assigned 340g of Rhodiola daily, while the other group was to take a placebo pill daily.
The Rhodiola group had significant improvements in depression, emotional stability, and insomnia. The placebo group showed no improvements.
Saffron is a bright-colored spice, it contains antioxidant compounds, like crocetin and carotenoids crocin. It is mostly known for its medicinal purposes including treating depression, fighting cancer, aids in weight loss, and many more.
Research shows that saffron increases serotonin in the brain, which is a mood-boosting neurotransmitter.
Reviewed studies found that saffron significantly reduced depressive symptoms in adults compared to placebo treatment. Moreover, the study found that saffron supplements are effective in reducing depressive symptoms just like antidepressant medication.
However, researchers say that larger trials with long follow-ups are needed before strong conclusions are made about saffron’s ability to treat depression.
Supplements for Depression
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats, meaning you get them from foods.
There are two types of omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Both are mainly common in seafood.
Some studies suggest that omega-3 supplements can help treat depression.
A 2020 analysis of controlled trials among 638 women, found that omega-3 fatty acid supplements helped improve depressive symptoms in postpartum and pregnant women.
In this study, supplements with a higher percentage of EPA than DHA were most effective.
Another review of 26 studies, with 2160 participants noted that omega-3 fatty acid supplements had a positive effect on depression treatment. The studies also noted that EPA was most effective in reducing depressive symptoms.
Although these studies are promising, different studies have observed mixed results. For instance, a 2019 study noted that omega-3 supplements had no impact on depressive symptoms in adults with MDD and in children.
Researchers suggest that larger studies with longer follow-ups are needed, before making strong conclusions
Vitamin D can be obtained through exposure to direct sunlight or vitamin D supplements.
Research indicates that people with depression are likely to have vitamin D deficiency.
Compared to the general population, people with depression were observed to have low levels of vitamin D. Those with the lowest levels of vitamin D had the most significant depressive symptoms.
Vitamin D fights depression by regulating mood, reducing inflammation, and protecting against neurocognitive dysfunction.
A 2020 study in people with depression, who also had vitamin D deficiency, showed that receiving 300,000 IU of vitamin D along with their normal treatment, significantly improved quality of life, depressive symptoms, and illness severity.
B vitamins including vitamin B12, B6, and folate are essential in the regulation and production of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).
In short, vitamin B helps in mood regulation and neurological function.
Research shows that a lack of folate and vitamin B12 can increase the risk of depression. Supplementing with these vitamins helps reduce depression symptoms in people with deficits.
For example, in a 2020 review, vitamin B12 supplements were found to help reduce depressive symptoms when used alongside antidepressant medication.
When used with other nutrients like tryptophan and nicotinamide, vitamin B6 was found to reduce depressive symptoms.
Zinc is a mineral that’s essential to brain health and helps in regulating neurotransmitter pathways. It also boosts anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Lack of zinc increases the risk of depression and depression symptom severity.
A review of 17 observational studies found that people with depression had lower blood zinc levels compared to people without the condition. The review also linked greater zinc deficiency to greater depressive symptoms.
Also, an analysis involving four randomized studies noted that, when people with depression took zinc supplements alongside their usual treatment, they experienced lowered depressive symptoms.
Other Supplements for Depression
Other supplements include
- St. John’s Wort – is a popular herb that helps reduce depression symptoms.
- Magnesium – is a mineral that helps improve depressive symptoms, for those with its deficit.
- Creatine – is an organic acid that helps maintain brain energy. Interfered brain energy is involved in the development of depression.
Herbs and Supplements for Depression – Bottom Line
Depression is a mental health condition that affects many.
Although it can be treated with therapy and medication, there are other methods like dietary changes, use of herbs and supplements to reduce depressive symptoms.
Before incorporating any herb or supplement into your diet, it’s safe to consult with your doctor to ensure it fits your needs.