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November 7, 2016

11 Most Effective Natural Antidepressants

Ideally, the purpose of medical drugs is to help us get rid of a certain health problem without causing any more. For this reason, we’ve come up with recommendations of natural antidepressants that can help you with your gloomy days without deepening the problem.

Depression is one of the major afflictions of the 21st century alongside stress. More often than not, it’s also a direct result of stress and the hectic lifestyle that characterizes the modern men and women. Over the past few years, more Americans have started turning to the relief offered by antidepressants than ever.

A study conducted in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey showcased that one in ten Americans is on an antidepressant treatment. The numbers are even more worrying in the case of women of ages between 30 and 40. One in four women in this age range takes antidepressants to ease their mental ailment.

The Mystery of Depression

natural antidepressants


Because the brain is more than a mere organ (rather, it’s a complex mechanism), we’re still leagues away from being able to thoroughly understand how mental health issues affect us. For the most part, scholars are still trying to understand how depression digs its roots in and how it takes its toll on our minds. Therefore, antidepressants represent approximate treatments; sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.

The most common types of antidepressants are the SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) such as Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil, and Zoloft. These types of antidepressants can help with depression of all sorts, whether it’s mild or severe. They can also serve as remedies for anxiety or panic attacks. The process through which they provide relief to us is as complex as you’d expect it to be. But long story short, they help us by tricking our brains into being content in situations of hopelessness of grief.

Natural Antidepressants

So, when something as delicate as the human psyche is on the line, it’s very important to ensure that nothing can go wrong. It’s a lot more likely to know what you’re dealing with when using natural supplements, which is why we’re here to offer several healthier and safer alternatives. Read below for some of the most effective natural antidepressants that you can replace SSRIs with.

WARNING! Although considered “healthier” alternatives, natural antidepressants can interfere with other forms of medication or worse a series of preexisting health problems. Always consult your doctor before starting a treatment based around any of these natural drugs.

#1 St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort is a plant that can be found in Europe, America, and Asia. It’s been used by Europeans as a form of natural antidepressants for a while now. However, medical experts in the United States have yet to reach a conclusion regarding its effectiveness. The herb helps ease symptoms of depression by increasing the secretion of serotonin, a substance responsible for the general happiness of our minds.

On one hand, a review posted in 2008 which contained the results of 29 separate studies writes that St. John’s Wort has been proven to be effective in treating mild forms of depression. Some appointed it as effective as normal antidepressants, only with fewer side effects.  On another hand, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health renders the plant as virtually useless. After conducting two separate studies, researchers concluded that it actually isn’t more effective than placebo-based treatments.

#2 Curcumin

If you know your spices, you probably know that curcumin is the main active component you will find in the Indian spice known as turmeric. You can find a number of curcumin-based natural antidepressants around the market. Interestingly, studies have shown that curcumin acts almost exactly as Prozac and other SSRIs. Aside from giving you a boost in the release of serotonin, curcumin also helps with the secretion of dopamine. While serotonin is “guilty” of being in charge of our happiness, dopamine is responsible with your motivation and personal-reward system.

In case you’re struggling with a severe form of depression, curcumin taken simultaneously with other antidepressants can enhance the beneficial effects that they both have on your health. Aside from serving as an antidepressant, curcumin can also help those suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

#3 Saffron

Since we’re on the topic of spices that can also serve as natural antidepressants, let’s also mention saffron. Compared to turmeric, saffron is considerably harder to come across, which is why finding any legitimate supplements can be such a daunting task. Just like its other culinary counterpart, saffron helps those suffering from depression by giving a much-needed boost to serotonin metabolism.

Saffron is the pearl equivalent of the spice world. It’s one of the most commonly fraudulent foods, with scammers often offering marigold flowers, turmeric, or poppy flowers instead of the real deal. Be careful to only procure your supplements from renowned producers and to avoid products labeled only with “saffron extract.” When your health is on the line, you really should spare no expense.


Antidepressant Pills


EGCG stands for a substance known as epigallocatechin gallate, an active compound most commonly found in green tea. Green tea does more than work as a treatment for depression; it helps prevent it and reduces the risk by 44% when consumed. Normalizing the activity of a brain chemical known as GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid), EGCG helps us strengthen our resistance to stress. By doing so, we are less susceptible to depressive or anxious episodes.

This wondrous substance also helps render our brains into a state of relaxation while still keeping it semi-alert. The deed is possible thanks to the way EGCG alters brain waves and creates a feeling similar to a state of relaxation. Beware of the fact that EGCG supplements are extremely ineffective, which is why it’s best to get your necessary dose of EGCG directly through a sip of green tea. In this regard, EGCG is one of the few natural antidepressants that you don’t have to take by popping the lid off a pill bottle.

EGCG has other health benefits that we discussed in Today’s Leading Anti Aging Herbal Supplements.

#5 Omega-3 Fats

Omega-3 fatty acids are substantially found in various types of fish such as sardines, trout, and, most commonly, salmon. The Mayo Clinic conducted a research which attempted to study the connection between depression and the various compounds found within omega-3 fatty acids. Results showed that people whose brains lacked two particular chemicals residing in omega-3 fats have a higher risk of developing depression.

Just like EGCG, you can increase your omega-3 fatty acid intake through fish consumption. Eat any type of fish which contains the substance about three times a week. You will be able to give your body a much-needed extra dose of omega-3 fatty acids without having to resort to supplements. Unlike EGCG, however, fish oil supplements are actually effective and you can find them in about any local drugstore.

Other benefits of omega-3 fatty acids can be found in Fish: Food for the Brain.

#6 Kava

Kava is a type of relaxing tea specific to the south Pacific. Its main role is to soothe anxiety, but it can also do a wonderful job as a natural antidepressant. Just like EGCG, kava works by increasing the release of GABA, the chemical that’s responsible for the development of our resistance to stress. As a result, anxious and depressive episodes can lose some of their intensity with the help of kava’s relaxing effects on our brains.

You should definitely consult your doctor on a kava-based treatment if you know you’re struggling both with depression and anxiety. Moreover, kava is extremely effective to menopausal women, who are extremely predisposed to fluctuations of this kind. Those worrying about estrogen levels can sleep tight – kava doesn’t intervene with them the way hormone replacement therapy does.

#7 Tryptophan

Tryptophan is a substance part of a family which also contains serotonin and melatonin, the hormone that’s in control of your sleeping habits and patterns. Low levels of tryptophan can develop into a series of disorders while a balanced level of this substance can aid with depression. Aside from working as natural antidepressants, tryptophan remedies can also help with ADHD, schizophrenia, insomnia, SAD, OCD, and bipolar disorders.

There are foods which contain tryptophan, most notably meat and eggs. However, there is a tiny problem. The same foods contain a nutrient which actually inhibits tryptophan synthesis: protein. You may call it a paradox, but this strange occurrence means that it’s a better idea to take supplements instead. A word of warning: don’t follow a tryptophan treatment while also taking SSRIs. This can potentially lead to an affliction known as serotonin syndrome.

#8 Arctic Root

Arctic Root: One Of Natural Antidepressants You Can Take


As the name suggests, arctic root is a plant that’s mostly specific to the regions of the world with colder climates. It has an impressive and long history in medicine. The Chinese used it for a long time as as a remedy to stress-induced fatigue and as a way to boost stamina levels. Arctic root taps into the brain chemicals which dictate mood, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and, of course, serotonin.

Scholars that have studied the benefits of arctic root concluded that it “drains” depression out faster than normal antidepressants. This is a particularly helpful treatment for people suffering from depression with a cause. Whether you’ve started your depressive phase because of seasonal associative disorder (SAD), fatigue, or stress, you can try arctic root to ease it.

#9 Light Therapy

Natural antidepressants don’t have to be reduced to foods or treatments that go through our digestion. For the more particular cases, light therapy may work. It is a way through which you can get rid of the depression symptoms that are a result of seasonal associative disorder. SAD is the result of short days during wintertime combined with the lack of proper sunlight exposure. You see what we’re getting at here?

Through light therapy, people feeling lethargic or apathetic due to the symptoms of SAD will be able to feel more refreshed. Light therapy serves as a replacement for sunlight, which helps us feel good by supporting the secretion of melatonin in normal levels. Your internal clock will work much better and you will be able to say goodbye to the symptoms of depression caused by SAD.

#10 Exercise

Everywhere you turn, you can hear people talking about how healthy and beneficial exercise is for your health. Exercise isn’t only good for your PHYSICAL health, but for the wellbeing of your mind as well. Physical activity delivers more blood and oxygen to our brains, removing toxins and metabolic waste in the process. What’s more, it also boosts serotonin secretion, which is why so many of us feel good during exercise sessions.

A series of routine exercises outdoors work as the perfect natural antidepressants – they’re free and they’re effective. If possible, it’s best if you exercise outdoors as this will also help regulate your circadian cycle which will lead to better sleep. In a sense, this is all one big domino effect which will lead to the “healthy mind in a healthy body” we’re all craving.

#11 Meditation

What better way to treat an ailment of the mind that with meditation? Or, better, yet mindfulness meditation. Regular meditation routines have shown results of helping with anxiety, depression, and a great number of other mental problems. Meditation increases the production of GABA and serotonin. This happens while simultaneously lowering the levels of cortisol, the hormone responsible for stress and its negative effects.

Meditation becomes an excellent ally against depression by targeting the brain inflammation which reflects the presence of depression. Moreover, it can help reduce the risk by generally putting us in better spirits. For instance, it can drastically reduce self-loathing and negative perceptions of yourself. There are many forms of meditation out there, so you have a wide variety to choose from.


Depression is a persisting problem in the times we live in. Often caused by the stress of the modern lifestyle, it affects greater number of people every year. Antidepressants can either work or not work, an unfortunate result of the fact that the human brain continues to be a great mystery. That being said, with all these things considered, maybe you should consider some natural antidepressants instead. They’re less likely to have nasty side effects and you’re essentially placing yourself in the hands of the supreme doctor: Mother Nature.

Additional  natural antidepressants can be found in our article, Are There Non-Drug Treatments for Depression?

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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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