Natural Cures for Depression: How to Treat Depression Naturally

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Natural cures for depression are becoming increasingly more popular, and more and more people are interested in finding out how to treat depression naturally. Depression is known as the silent killer: it is more than just feeling blue, but is a serious form of mental illness.

People suffering depression can feel sad, anxious, hopeless, helpless, and restless and have no desire to participate in society. They can display symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, aches and pains and more, for which the usual remedies appear to have no effect.

Some forms of depression are less of a psychiatric condition than a reaction to certain circumstances or events such as bereavement or severe disappointment, and may also result as a consequence of some illnesses. It is one of the most common mental health problems worldwide, and up to 20% of the population of developed countries will suffer depression at some time in their lives.

Common depression treatments are psychotherapy, medication an electroconvulsive shock therapy, although more people suffering milder forms of the condition are tending towards natural remedies. Even for severe depression, some are being treated naturally – although there is conflicting opinion regarding its effectiveness.

Natural Cures for Depression

The two major natural cures for depression are St. John’s Wort and SAMe (S-Adenosyl methionine), though some are also suggesting Omega-3 fatty acids as an alternative therapy.  Each of these is discussed below, and while it should be understood that they are not accepted replacements for medical treatment, they do appear to work effectively with some people.

St. John’s Wort

The ‘Cochrane Collaboration’ is a nonprofit organization that compiles existing scientific and medical evidence to enable informed health care decisions to be made. In 2008, this organization issued an analysis of existing data that concluded that the extracts of Hypericum (St. John’s Wort) used in trials examined by the Collaboration proved superior to placebos in treating major depression, and are as effective as standard antidepressants with fewer side effects [1].

Another study carried out by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that St. John’s Wort was no better than a placebo for moderate depression, but was useful for treating milder forms of depression [2]. In fact, this herb has been used for centuries to relieve depression, and while not FDA approved in the USA, it is nevertheless used commonly in Europe.

Although this is one of the more common natural cures for mild to moderate depression, it can interact with some regular antidepressants and also drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS and organ rejection after transplant. Those that use it, however, claim it to be an effective treatment.

SAMe (S-Adenosyl Methionine)

In Europe, SAMe is available on prescription as an antidepressant, and is a dietary supplement in the USA. Various trials have found it to act as an effective treatment for major depression [3]. The chemical itself is a natural substance found in the body, and can therefore be rightly described as a natural cure for depression.  However, the form commonly used to treat depression naturally is manufactured synthetically since it is not possible to extract it commercially from the body!

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

These fatty acids help improve the brain’s function and offer a number of health benefits. Among those is believed to be its effect on depression, bipolar disorder and others. They are what are known as essential fatty acids, in that they are an essential part of your diet – they cannot be synthesized in your body.

Omega-3 fatty acids are obtained from oily fish such as mackerel, sardines and salmon, some nuts and some plants. Tests have indicated that people with a low intake of Omega-3 fatty acids are more liable to suffer depression than those with good intake [4].

Research has also suggested that Omega-3 fatty acids could benefit depression during the perinatal period (just before and after pregnancy) [4]. In such cases the Omega-3 supplements should contain at least 60% EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) [5].

Although it is possible to fight depression naturally, such natural cures for depression should not be considered replacements for medical treatment. If you are currently receiving treatment for depression, you should refer to your doctor before trying any natural remedy. If you feel you are depressed, but are not being treated for it, then one of these natural treatments might be worth trying first.

Many people find them effective in making their lives bearable and enabling them to start interacting with society again, and to do things they used to enjoy doing before their depression started. Also bear in mind that some natural remedies can interact with existing medications, so always speak to your doctor before adding natural cures for depression to anything you are already taking.

References:

1.  Linde K, Berner MM, Kriston L (2008). “St John’s wort for major depression“. Cochrane Database Syst Rev (4): CD000448.

2.  “St John’s Wort and depression”. Retrieved 29 May, 2012.

3.  Mischoulon D, Fava M (November 2002). “Role of S-adenosyl-L-methionine in the treatment of depression: a review of the evidence“. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 76 (5): 1158S–61S

4.  Rees AM, Austin MP, Parker G (April 2005). “Role of omega-3 fatty acids as a treatment for depression in the perinatal period“. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry 39 (4): 274–80.

5.  Sublette ME, Ellis SP, Geant AL, Mann JJ “Meta-analysis of the effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in clinical trials in depression” J Clin Psychiatry. 2011 Dec;72(12):1577-84. Epub 2011 Sep 6.

Other Reading:

Mischoulon D. Update and critique of natural remedies as antidepressant treatments. Obstetrics & Gynecology Clinics of North America. 2009;36:789.

van der Watt G, et al. Complementary and alternative medicine in the treatment of anxiety and depression. Current Opinion in Psychiatry. 2008;2:37.

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