Natural Remedies for Depression

Marilyn Manson sang the lyrics “I don’t like the drugs, but the drugs like me”. He wasn’t talking about anti-depressants, but that is often how I feel about them. I wish I weren’t taking them, but my body does better on them. Emotionally, I feel better on them and they help with the pains and lack of energy.  I did try going off antidepressants once. I was off for almost 8 months. It was a scary 8 months, let’s just put it that way.

home remediesOften drugs just mask the symptoms of depression. They don’t get to the root of the problem. The experts say the best way to treat depression is with psychological work and inner reflection. You need to focus on your self-esteem, healing wounds and psychological growth. This takes a long time. People usually take to antidepressants to start to feel better in the short-term. If you are against medication or haven’t been able to find one that works there are some natural remedies you can try. Here are some of them.

 

Acupuncture.

Acupuncture has become more popular, but it is still treated with suspicion. How can treating the body help the mind? With Eastern Medicine, the mind and body are seen as one hollistic system, treatment of one affects the other. Studies have shown that acupuncture works best as part of a treatment regiment along with diet and psyhcotherapy. A 2013 study compared three groups of people with moderate depression receiving different treatments. One group got acupuncture, the second group had pyschotherapy and the third was given the usual care you would get from your family doctor. After 3 months, those in the acupuncture and psychotherapy groups were neck and neck with improvement. Approximately 30% of the people in each group reduced their depressive symptoms by 50%. After 12 months, all three groups had shown the same amount of improvement. What does this tell us? Time heals all wounds, but acupuncture and/or psychotherapy may give you a jump-start.

Herbs.

  • St. John’s Wort – This a common ingredient in herbal teas. Studies have proven it’s potency as a mood improver. You have to be careful when taking it though, it has been known to interfere with the effectiveness of other prescription medications. Also, if taken with certain anti-depressants, it can lead to life threatening increases in serotonin. It’s best to talk to your doctor before trying this one.
  • Valerian Root – Many drugs are synthetic versions of compounds found in herbs. Valerian root is one of these, used to make Valium. It has been used for centuries to relieve insomnia. People often put it in their baths to help them relax. More recently, it has also been used to treat muscle/joint pain, mild tremors, chronic fatigue syndrome and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. It acts as a central nervous system sedative and has been shown to be safe in short-term use. The results of long-term use are still unknown. One of the side effects is feeling sluggish the morning after taking it. It’s not recommended to take other CNS depressants (alcohol, Xanax, Benzodiazepines) while taking valerian root.

Diet.

What you put in your body can have an effect on your mood in the short-term and the long-term. A poor diet can create chemical imbalances which can worsen the symptoms of depression. Cutting out harmful foods can make a difference in the short-term. This is hard for some people (like me) who find comfort in eating. Comfort eating leads to weight gain which just perpetuates the depression cycle. Sugary carbs are bad for serotonin levels too. It’s recommended to stick with whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats. Looking in the mirror and seeing a healthier you will give you more confidence.

Studies show that people with depression have low levels of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These are synthesized from omega-3 fatty acids and are important in brain functions. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids, meaning they are needed by our bodies but can only be obtained from diet. Studies show that consuming more fish raises levels of EPA and DHA relieving moderate to severe depression symptoms. Apparently adding omega-3s to your diet doesn’t work as well for those with milder forms of depression.

Natural Remedies to Avoid

  • Marijuana – Many people have told me to just smoke a joint and I’ll feel better. Many people self-medicate with marijuana because the initial high is relaxing allowing them to forget their troubles. Marijuana however, is a depressant and over the long term leads to a greater chemical imbalance in the brain and a deeper depression.
  • Alcohol – This is also a CNS depressant and will have the same effect as marijuana in the long-term.

Does any of this really work?

There are enough scientific studies to suggest these remedies do help some, but it is recommended that they be used in conjunction with other therapies and not on their own. I haven’t tried acupuncture. The thought of needles gives me the heebie-geebies. I wouldn’t mind trying the valerian root in a bath because it wouldn’t interact with my medications that way. That would involve actually taking a bath. I’m a shower person, I don’t think I’ve taken a bath since I was young enough to bring my little pony in the tub with me. Actually, my apartment doesn’t even have a tub.

I have been trying to change my diet. I’ve been eating a lot more veggies, sticking to lean protein and having salmon more often. I do feel better when I eat cleaner. It’s the dessert that is hard for me to give up. Today someone recommended that I try giving up wheat. They said it improves their mood. I think I’ll give that a try next.

If there is something you have tried that worked for you? I’d love to hear about it!

Sources:

WebMDMacPherson et al., 2013
National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine

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17 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. C.E. Darrell
    Apr 16, 2014 @ 08:29:36

    I’ve been on a herbal detox (read: LOTS of teas, herbal pills, and incense) for a few months now to combat some serious anxiety stuff I suffered at the start of the year, and I’m not sure whether it’s just that I’ve plecebo’d myself or that all of it, plus exercise, it actually working, but I’ve had some huge improvements.

    However, as with any medical ailment, I would say modern medicine can sometimes be the best option, particularly for matters of the mind 😉 Not to say these natural remedies don’t help though; I think traditional + modern = the best balance, personally 🙂

    Reply

    • somberscribbler
      Apr 16, 2014 @ 08:36:04

      I agree, a balance is best. Unfortunately, that balance is slightly different for each individual, there’s no formula to figure it out. I don’t think it matters if its a placebo effect or not, it matters that you are feeling better. I haven’t tried tea and incense yet, maybe I’ll add that to my regiment. Thanks for the idea!

      Reply

  2. nembow
    Apr 16, 2014 @ 10:33:15

    Eating a diet low in fat but high in fruits, veg and fibre gives me an all-round healthier feel. Stuffing my face with cakes and chocolate is something I’ve done for comfort ever since I was a teenager, but the relief is short-term and it has had unhealthy long-term consequences. I’m trying to avoid doing that at all now, but sometimes a chocolate hit does help! 🙂

    Reply

  3. Matt Fried
    Apr 16, 2014 @ 10:56:10

    I agree with everything here except the fact that you wish you weren’t taking anti-depressants.

    I totally understand – I felt the same way. But,:

    – If you want to get to a place where therapy & ‘natural’ remedies are enough, then you’ll certainly need meds to get there.
    – Everything is ‘natural’ depending on how you look at it, including chemical compounds. They come from elements here on earth.
    – Most importantly, you would take antibiotics if you have a severe infection that might cause your arm to be amputated, right? Why wouldn’t you look at mental illness the same way?

    Reply

    • somberscribbler
      Apr 16, 2014 @ 11:07:20

      You’re right, if you have an illness, you should take the medicine to get better, regardless of what the illness is. The ideal would be to be well and not have to take anything at all. This is not reality though.

      Reply

  4. Susan Schwartz
    Apr 16, 2014 @ 11:12:18

    An education in options…
    Susan
    Garden of Eden Blog

    Reply

  5. Birgit
    Apr 16, 2014 @ 16:39:12

    I remember, many years ago, I would sleep any where, couldn’t eat properly, bad night terrors, confusion, anger, depressed, lack of concentration, heart palpitations, cold constantly etc…I saw more than 1 Dr and they just stated I was depressed and gave me drugs which wigged me out. I finally found a dr who listened to me. Now This is just regarding me, It turned out I was hypoglycemic. My body produces too much insulin. basically I can not have any sugar, starch or caffeine. Anything that converts the blood sugar fast is a no-no to me. I found that the diet truly saved my life. Now this was something that was affecting my pancreas and therefore it would affect my brain due to the sugar absorption. Have I cheated-yup! I shouldn’t but I do because it is a hard diet and chocolate is everywhere and sugar is in everything. I have to read all the labels and I realized Paul Newman’s Oil and Vinegar is the only dressing without sugar. Afterwards, I had people come up to me and ask if I was Ok as they thought I had cancer-these were complete strangers! So diet is something I believe in. I tried St. John’s Wort and it made me feel worse. I tried it 3 times to makes sure it was this and it was so it is not good for me. Each person needs to find that holy grail that will make them feel better or improve and not all works for all.

    Reply

    • somberscribbler
      Apr 18, 2014 @ 08:30:18

      I’m glad you are feeling better! It’s amazing the effect diet can have on us. Unfortunately, you’re right, there is no magic formula. We all have to figure out what works best for us.

      Reply

  6. Yvonne Ventresca
    Apr 16, 2014 @ 22:48:13

    Thanks for sharing this. I’m not an expert but I find diet and exercise greatly affect my mood.

    Yvonne

    Reply

  7. fuzzwalk
    Apr 17, 2014 @ 10:59:23

    As you know I’ve stopped eating wheat and most carbs. I’ve found that keeping my blood sugar more regular has really helped the sudden crashes & my mood overall. I wrote a short blog about it a while ago: Wheat Intolerance http://wp.me/p3xsxz-o

    Reply

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