Natural Remedies for Depression

Natural remedies are some of the safest and most effective treatments for depression. Many studies show that natural remedies are as effective or more effective than prescription antidepressants, with far fewer side effects. But with so many different herbs, vitamins and other supplements available, how do you choose the best natural remedy for you?

Different natural remedies work in different ways. Some remedies boost the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter (brain chemical) that regulates mood, appetite and sleep. Others boost levels of dopamine, a brain chemical that controls the brain’s reward system and is important for motivation and concentration. And others increase levels of GABA, another brain chemical that helps keep us calm by switching off the “fight or flight” response. The best way to choose a treatment for depression is to work out which brain chemicals you are low in then choose a treatment that will increase the levels of those particular chemicals.

Serotonin Deficiency

Serotonin is the brain chemical most commonly involved in depression. Symptoms of serotonin deficiency include depression, insomnia, anxiety, repetitive negative thoughts, a tendency to be a bit (or a lot) obsessive, perfectionism, cravings for sugar or carbohydrates and depression that’s worse in winter.

The most common class of antidepressant drugs, called SSRIs or selective serotonin uptake inhibitors, increase available serotonin levels by preventing the brain cells from reabsorbing serotonin after they release it. If you have ever taken one of these drugs and it improved your depression, you definitely have a problem with serotonin deficiency. SSRIs can be quite effective but unfortunately they tend to have a lot of side effects and can be extremely addictive.

Natural remedies are a much safer way to increase serotonin levels. One of the most effective natural remedies for serotonin deficiency is 5-HTP, an amino acid used by the body to produce serotonin. 5-HTP increases serotonin levels by giving the body more of the building blocks it needs to produce its own serotonin. It works very quickly, often starting to lift the black clouds within a few hours.

A vitamin B tablet will help your body use the 5-HTP by providing vitamin B6, a nutrient that helps convert 5-HTP to serotonin.

If you prefer a herbal approach, St John’s Wort is a well known herb for depression that can increase serotonin levels. It is thought to work by increasing the levels of both serotonin and dopamine.

Dopamine Deficiency

Dopamine is another brain chemical commonly involved in depression. Dopamine controls the reward centers of the brain and is vital for motivation, concentration and focus. The symptoms of dopamine deficiency are quite different to the symptoms of serotonin deficiency and can include depression, feeling flat, sluggish and dull, poor motivation, poor concentration, low energy and low libido.

One of the best natural remedies for dopamine deficiency is l-tyrosine, an amino acid that is used by the body to produce dopamine. By providing the body with more of the building blocks it needs for dopamine production, l-tyrosine can start to build up levels of dopamine and bring back your zest for life very quickly.

Vitamin D and fish oil can be taken in combination with l-tyrosine to help support the production of dopamine.

If you prefer herbs, Mucuna is one of the best herbs for increasing dopamine levels. It contains high levels of l-dopa, which is also converted to dopamine in the body.

GABA deficiency

GABA is the body’s natural relaxation chemical. It works by switching off the body’s “fight or flight” response. If you have been under a lot of stress, there is a good chance your levels of GABA will be low as your body will be constantly using GABA to try and dampen down your stress response.

Symptoms of GABA deficiency include anxiety, depression, tight muscles, insomnia and feeling pressured or overwhelmed.

The best way to increase GABA levels is to take GABA supplements. Alternatively, Kava Kava is a herb that can be used to boost GABA levels and treat depression and anxiety.

Endorphin Deficiency

The endorphins are a group of brain chemicals that are responsible for feelings of pleasure and joy. They also act as natural painkillers. Symptoms of endorphin deficiency include excessive crying and sadness, a tendency to cry over small things like sad TV ads, a high sensitivity to physical and emotional pain, finding it hard to get over loss and a tendency to depend on treats like chocolate, wine or marijuana for pleasure.

Endorphin levels can be increased by taking DLPA, a combination of 2 amino acids called D-phenylalanine and L-phenylalanine. L-phenylalanine is needed by the body for the production of endorphins, while D-phenylalanine controls the enzymes that destroy endorphins in the body.

Another option for increasing endorphin levels is rhodiola, an Ayurvedic herb used to treat depression, anxiety and fatigue. It is thought to increase endorphin levels as well as serotonin and dopamine levels.

Jane Henderson is the author of Get Help for Depression. She invites you to take these 13 depression tests, including tests for serotonin, dopamine, GABA and endorphin deficiency, to find out what’s causing your depression.