5 Herbs and Supplements to Help Fight Depression
Depression is a mood disorder that affects over 17 million adults in the United States alone. However, the actual number is thought to be much higher, as many people with depression don’t seek treatment for various reasons.
Depressive disorders are treated with medication and psychotherapy. Lifestyle modifications, including making dietary changes and taking certain supplements, may also help people with depression. For example, research shows that specific vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other compounds may be particularly effective at improving depressive symptoms.
This following are 5 herbs and supplements that may help people with depression.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fats are essential fats, meaning you need to get them from your diet. Some studies show that omega-3 supplements may help treat depression.
A 2020 analysis of randomised control trials including 638 women found that omega-3 fatty acid supplements significantly improved depressive symptoms in pregnant and postpartum women. In the study, supplements with a higher ratio of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) to docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) were particularly effective. EPA and DHA are two types of omega-3 fatty acids, both of which are common in seafood.
Another review of 26 studies including 2,160 participants found that omega-3 supplements exerted an overall positive effect on the treatment of depressive symptoms.
Specifically, researchers concluded that omega-3 formulations that contained 60% or more EPA in a dose of 1 gram or less per day were most effective. While these findings are promising, other studies have observed mixed results. For example, a 2019 study found that omega-3 supplements didn’t reduce depressive symptoms in children and adolescents with major depressive disorder (MDD).
Overall, omega-3 supplements are well tolerated and a healthy addition to your diet if it lacks fatty fish. They may also help treat depression in certain populations. However, more research is needed.
NAC is a precursor to the amino acids L-cysteine and glutathione. Glutathione is considered one of the most important antioxidants in your body and critical for regulating inflammation and protecting cells against oxidative damage.
Taking NAC has been shown to offer several health benefits, including boosting your body’s glutathione levels.
Research shows that people with depression are more likely to have higher levels of inflammatory cytokines like C-reactive protein, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha. Taking NAC may help reduce inflammation and ease depressive symptoms. What’s more, NAC may improve neurotransmitter dysregulation in those with psychiatric disorders. The dysregulation of neurotransmitters like dopamine and glutamate may be associated with mood disorders and schizophrenia, among other conditions.
Finally, a 2016 review of five studies concluded that treatment with NAC significantly reduced depressive symptoms and improved functioning in people with depression compared with placebo treatments. Plus, the NAC supplements were safe and well tolerated.
Doses of 2–2.4 grams per day are thought to help treat psychiatric disorders like depression.
Saffron is a brightly colored spice that’s packed with antioxidant compounds, including the carotenoids crocin and crocetin. Interestingly, saffron has shown promise as a natural treatment for depression.
Studies have observed that it increases levels of the mood-boosting neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. While it’s unknown exactly how this process works, it’s thought that saffron inhibits serotonin reuptake, thereby keeping it in the brain longer.
An analysis of five randomized controlled trials found that supplementing with saffron significantly reduced depressive symptoms in adults with MDD compared with placebo treatments. What’s more, the review found that saffron supplements were similarly effective at reducing depressive symptoms as antidepressant medication.
However, the researchers acknowledged that larger trials with longer follow-up periods were needed to better assess saffron’s ability to help treat depression.
For a saffron infused supplement that is tasty and convenient, you can try Boyo Strez, a Saffron Infused Botanical Beverage Mix with a twist of Orange, that alleviates symptoms of stress, depression and anxiety as well as soothe your nerves.
Vitamin D is a critical nutrient that plays numerous essential roles in your body. Unfortunately, many people don’t have sufficient vitamin D levels, including people with depression.
Research shows that people with depression are more likely to be low or deficient in vitamin D. Those with the condition tend to have lower vitamin D levels than the general population, and people with the lowest levels tend to have the most significant depressive symptoms.
Vitamin D may fight depression through several mechanisms, including reducing inflammation, regulating mood, and protecting against neurocognitive dysfunction.
A 2019 review of four randomized controlled trials found that vitamin D supplements led to clinical benefits in people with major depression. Additionally, a 2020 study in people with depression who were deficient in vitamin D found that receiving a single injection of 300,000 IU of vitamin D along with their usual treatment significantly improved depressive symptoms, quality of life, and illness severity.
However, a 2020 review of 61 studies concluded that although vitamin D levels are related to depressive symptoms and supplements may help, more evidence is needed before vitamin D can be recommended as a universal treatment for depression.
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)
Rhodiola is an herb linked to a variety of potential health benefits when taken in supplement form. These include reduced depressive symptoms and an improved stress response, which can help your body adapt to stressful situations.
The herb may exert antidepressant effects via its ability to enhance nerve cell communication and reduce overactivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis. The HPA axis is a complex system that regulates your body’s stress response. Research suggests overactivity of the HPA axis may be associated with major depression.
Some studies show that supplementing with rhodiola may benefit those with depression. For example, a study in 57 people with depression found that treatment with 340 mg of rhodiola extract per day for 12 weeks led to clinically meaningful reductions in depressive symptoms. What’s more, while rhodiola treatment was less effective than the antidepressant medication Sertraline, it caused much fewer side effects. Another study found that a supplement composed of rhodiola and saffron significantly reduced depression and anxiety symptoms in adults with mild to moderate depression after 6 weeks.
In summary, depression is a mental health disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. Although depression is typically treated with medication and therapy, some people may want to try other safe methods like dietary modifications or supplements to reduce their symptoms.
The supplements listed here have been studied for their potential to reduce depressive symptoms and may be appropriate for some people with depression. However, it’s essential to discuss any supplement with your doctor to ensure that it’s safe for you and fits your needs.