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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