Updated: Jun 10
It would be good to know, wouldn’t it, exactly which supplements we could take which would make our depression lift – just like that?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive guide to what the best mood supplements for depression are. Studies tend to focus on pharmaceutical drugs because the money for research generally comes from the pharmaceutical industry.
Consequently, there’s not much funding put aside to research, which supplements, or other non-pharmaceuticals, work to alleviate depression.
Having done years of research myself, however, I’ve discovered that there are a few pretty special supplements, which are worth trying.
1. St. John's Wort
St. John's Wort is a plant that has been used as a common herbal mental health treatment for hundreds of years. You may have read about it because it’s widely touted as a great mood supplement for depression.
It’s thought it works by its action, which may be similar to that of a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) such as fluoxetine, or Prozac, in increasing the availability of the brain chemicals dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.
However, it does come with some cautions. One review that took place in 2016[i] found that St. John's Wort worked almost as well as antidepressant medications for treating mild to moderate depression.
However, this review of St. John’s Wort didn’t find conclusive evidence of the effective treatment for severe depression.
The study also advised that the herb could also interfere with the effects of antidepressant medication, meaning that it may make symptoms worse or reduce the effectiveness of conventional treatment.
St. John's Wort could help some people but it doesn’t seem to have consistently beneficial effects.
For these reasons, the study says, people should not use St. John's Wort instead of conventional treatment or try St. John's Wort to treat moderate to severe depression.
It’s all a bit confusing and not all research was consistently reliable.
As with all these alternatives, it maybe worth trying St John’s Wort simply to see if it has a positive affect on you.
2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Even I wrote about Omega 3 fatty acids in my book “Superfoods To Boost Your Mood” hailing them as a cure all for depression, such was the hype about this supplement at the time.
However, a review[ii] in 2015 knocked that on the head when it concluded that these supplements were really not that useful as a depression treatment.
That came as a big surprise in the alternative self-help world as it been revered as a ‘break through’ treatment!
However, it was concluded that it would be an effective depression treatment if that person were depressed as a result of Omega -3 deficiency. That makes sense because most of us are.
As with all supplements, always worth a try if you are suffering from depression.
SAMe is short for S-adenosyl methionine and an amino acid derivative that occurs naturally in our cells.
The reviews on several scientific studies are confusing.
They indicate a range of views.
From: SAMe may be useful in the treatment of depression.
To: They found no significant difference between the effects of SAMe on depression symptoms and those of a placebo.
By the same token, they say that[iii] they found that SAMe had about equal effectiveness as the common antidepressants imipramine or escitalopram. Also, it was said to be better than a placebo when the researchers mixed SAMe with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor medications. Again, a mixed bag.
These studies are known as ‘low quality’ which means inconclusive and more research is necessary to determine its exact effect.
However, I hear of some people using this mood supplement as a prescription antidepressant. If there are no harmful side effects, it’s always worth trying something as it may work for you.
Also known as 5-hydroxytryptophan, this supplement might be useful in regulating and improving levels of serotonin in the brain but it has not been proved. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that affects a person's mood.
5-HTP has undergone a number of studies, and some, such as a review says, cite its potential as an antidepressant therapy. However, evidence of its effects in human subjects is limited[iv].
But what some studies do say[v] is that 5-HTP can inhibit the intake of calories from carbohydrates, which is associated with better blood sugar control. Better blood sugar control is a key factor in lifting depressive symptoms, and for that reason, this mood supplement maybe worth taking.
5. Vitamin D
A study[vi] in 2011 of more than 80,000 women showed that those with the highest intake of vitamin D showed significantly less depressive symptoms than those who those with low intakes.
It’s suggested that vitamin D may affect the function of hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain that are likely involved in depression, while also modulating the relationship between depression and inflammation.
There’s growing evidence showing that if you're suffering from depression one of the best mood supplements to take is to optimize your levels of vitamin D.
The connection between depression and lack of vitamin D isn’t new. Many studies have shown with that people with low levels of vitamin D are likely to be 11 times more prone to depression. 11 times!!!!
So how much vitamin D should you take?
It appears that most adults will need around 8000 IU’s of vitamin per day to get their serum levels up to 40 ng/ml, which is the lowest they should be. The best serum levels should be between 50 and 70 ng/ml.
The link between lack of vitamin D and depression seems to revolve around inflammation. It’s been shown that depressed people have higher levels of inflammation in their brains and sufficient vitamin D is needed for proper functioning of our immune system to control inflammation.
Of course, in an ideal world you would get that from exposure to the sun. However, our sun exposure is way below what necessary for optimum vitamin D levels.
A study in 2012[vii] reviewed chamomile as an alternative to antidepressants, and its role in helping to manage depression and anxiety.
The results show that chamomile produced more significant relief from depressive symptoms than a placebo. However, studies are limited and more are necessary to confirm the health benefits of this plant in treating depressive symptoms.
Still, a cup of chamomile tea is pretty soothing anyway so if nothing else, there is that benefit because a cup of tea when you're feeling depressed can go a long way.
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