Thursday, March 29, 2018

Are Natural Herbs Good for Depression?

Popular Natural Antidepressant Supplements

St. John's Wort

St. John's Wort, a traditional European herb, also called the sunshine herb because of its yellow flowers, is one of the most popular natural antidepressants. Supported by controlled clinical trials, St. John’s Wort has shown its effectiveness in relieving mild mental depression. In fact, studies comparing St John’ s Wort to prescription depression medications, such as Paxil® and Prozac® demonstrate that it works just as well as these drugs, but with fewer side effects.

In addition, St. John’s Wort can help you restore self-confidence and regular sleeping patterns, as well increase appetite and avoid binge-eating.

Start with a dose of 600-900 mg daily, increasing to 900-1800 mg per day if necessary. 

Take only St. John’s Wort extracts that are standardized to contain 5 percent hyperforin.

St. John’s Wort requires at least three weeks to begin working, and may not produce its full effects for a month or two.


SAM-e is another natural antidepressant backed by scientific evidence showing it is effective against mental depression. SAM-e works quickly, and most people start noticing improvement in days rather than weeks. The down side of SAM-e is that it is expensive (costing as much as some prescription drugs) and that it is efficacious only in certain individuals.


5-HTP is yet another natural antidepressant shown by clinical research to treat mental depression effectively. Essentially, it is an amino acid that increases your body’s levels of serotonin, a mood-related neurotransmitter, in the brain. 5-HTP is not only easily absorbed and highly effective in raising serotonin levels, but also a good sleep enhancer. 

Taking 50-300 mg of 5-HTP may improve your mood in just a few weeks without causing side effects. 5-HTP may work best when combined with St.John’s Wort.

There have been concerns about the safety of 5-HTP, but scientific evidence remains inconclusive. 

Other Herbal Supplements

Kava Kava

Kava Kava is an herb that has been widely used for hundreds of years by native South Pacific Islanders. It is effective in combating anxiety and stress, which may lead to mental depression. Kava kava extract is marketed as herbal medicine for anxiety and stress.

Tiredness and decreased sex drive are some of the side effects of kava kava. 

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm is a “calming” herb, which has been widely used since the Middle Ages to calm nerves and induce sleep. Due to its calming aroma and effects, lemon balm is also popular as a herbal antidepressant. Lemon balm has been used for centuries as an antibacterial ointment and also as an infusion or a tea by tearing the leaves, adding honey and hot water.

Rethink Herbal Supplements

Natural antidepressant herbal supplements may appeal to many due to the absence of side effects.

Rethink the quality control

Quality control is often a concern. For a natural antidepressant to be efficacious, it must contain proven ingredients in the proper doses and potencies with strict manufacturing procedures. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate the production of herbal supplements. Even with strict control and regulation, many prescription drugs are unsafe; without the FDA, the safety of many dietary supplements remains a concern for many. 

Rethink your drug interactions

Some natural antidepressants may have significant drug interactions. For example, St. John’s Wort may reduce depression but may also trigger mania in someone with bipolar depression.

Rethink your doctor's approval and supervision

Although St. John’s Wort is prescribed in Germany ten times more frequently than is Prozac®, many doctors in the United States still have reservation about recommending St. John’s Wort to their patients. You should not stop your prescribed medications and opt for St. John’s Wort without your doctor’s approval and supervision. Always check for interactions with any prescription drug you may be taking currently.

Rethink your ability to monitor herbal supplements

It is probably best to start with just one product over two or three weeks, to establish if it is helping you and to what extent. If a little is good, it does not mean that more is better, and it is not wise to take more than you need. However, these products do have a synergistic effect and if you do not quite get the effect you need from one, you can then add in a low dose of another to enhance the overall effect. However, it requires a great deal of adjustment and observation - which, unfortunately, many patients may not have.

The bottom line: Natural herbal supplements are preferred to the toxic pharmaceutical drugs, such as Lithium, Paxil etc; but the best alternative is to use your mind to control how and what you think that are the underlying causes of your depression, causing you the chemical imbalance in your brain. Read my book: My Way! No Way! Tao is the Way!

Stephen Lau
Copyright© by Stephen Lau

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