In our vastly overmedicated society, a mind-boggling 230 million prescriptions for antidepressants are filled every year. Over the course of one decade, their use has doubled—they are now the most popular class of drugs in the US. Yet they are far from the miracle drugs many believe them to be. Not only do they carry the risk of seriously dangerous side effects. Many trials have suggested they are no more, and perhaps even less, effective than placebos—mere sugar pills. In light of all this, it would be a mistake to ignore the safe, effective help for anxiety and depression provided by nature, which comes in the form of some wonderful herbs and supplements. It’s vital that you become aware of these natural alternatives in case you, or one of your loved ones, are in need of the remarkable healing they can bring.
Natural Remedies For Depression - Banish The Blues
There are many causes of depression—some are of the body and some of the psyche. I don’t think you can separate the two. Just as body and mind feed each other in producing the dark, seemingly endless blues which can set in at any period of your life, the herbs you call on for help will improve both body and spirit. When you feel depressed, you can feel anxious as well. Many of the plants which are effective in lifting the blues also help to clear fear and anxiety. Here are a couple of the best.
St John’s Wort
Known botanically as Hypericum perforatum, St John’s Wort is possibly the best herbal antidepressant nature has to offer. Its Latin name means ‘over an apparition’—a reference to the belief that a mere whiff of St Johns Wort will banish any evil spirit. Used since the time of the Greeks and Romans to treat nerve-related disorders, it is now the most commonly prescribed antidepressant in Germany. This makes good sense when you look at the research: At least 23 randomized clinical trials have shown that this plant is just as effective as standard antidepressant drugs, if not moreso. It’s earned its name as “nature’s answer to Prozac”, but can be used without fear of the dangerous side effects that pharmaceuticals bring.
How to use
The bright yellow flowers of St John’s Wort contain a red oil called hypericin which is antiviral and probably mood enhancing. Many studies show that it is whole plant extracts, however, rather than hypericin alone, that have the best anti-depressant effects.
You can pick the flowers, leaves and stems of St John’s Wort while the plant is in flower. Dry them quickly, as you want to preserve the red oil in the flowers. To make tea, use 1-2 teaspoons of the dried herb in a cup of boiling water. Steep for 10-15 minutes, strain, and drink 3 times a day.
One of the most effective ways to use St John’s Wort for depression is as a tincture. Take 1 teaspoon of St John’s Wort tincture in a little water 3 times a day. It should be taken for at least a month before results can be expected. A lucky few people, however, respond right away.
The drug valium takes its name from a plant. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) was the primary herbal sedative used on both sides of the Atlantic before the advent of barbiturate sleeping pills. It is a safe and well-tested herbal remedy with a smell like dirty old socks. But don’t let that put you off since valerian is a powerful herb for inducing safe sleep – more potent than hops or camomile.
You can take valerian in a couple of ways. I like the tincture best – 10 to 20 drops in a little water before bedtime or in the middle of the night when you awaken. Alternatively you can take a couple of capsules of the dried root. Valerian in lower doses is equally useful when your nerves feel ‘shot’, even during the day. It has the remarkable ability to enhance your ability to deal with stress and bring you stamina while it calms. Very occasionally, and only to a very few people, valerian will cause a hangover in the morning, if this happens to you lower the dose or try a different herb.
Short for S-adenosyl methionine, Sam-E was discovered in Italy in 1952. It is not actually a herb, but an amino acid, which occurs naturally in our bodies when we are in good health. However it easily becomes depleted by stress, illness and deficiencies. Though it has been popular for treating depression in Europe since 1975, it has largely remained unknown elsewhere in the world—that is, until recently, when it became available in the US. It’s still unknown exactly how it works to lift depression. One hypothesis suggests that it can increase the availability of two neurotransmitters that regulate our mood: serotonin and dopamine. Studies repeatedly find in its favor compared with pharmaceuticals and placebo. (You may be interested to read this 2002 analysis of depression trials
by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality)
Sam-E is especially recommended for those who have tried and not responded to traditional prescription antidepressants.
Help From Omegas
Last but not least, there is ever growing evidence to demonstrate the importance of fatty acids in the diet to guard against depression. In particular, the levels of omega-3 in the blood of depressed individuals was found to be significantly lower than those of non-depressed people. This is in addition to the wealth of other well-documented benefits that omega-3s bestow. Yet in the United States alone, it is estimated that over 90% of adults are deficient in this essential fatty acid. Therefore, adding a good quality omega-3 supplement to your diet (see recommendations below) is one simple and effective measure you can take to bolster your mental and overall wellbeing.
I have tested all of the products that follow, both personally and with others who wanted to leave behind antidepressant drugs in favor of natural alternatives. I have also listed below what I believe to be the best brand you can buy in the case of each product.
Liquid Phyto-Caps - Gaia Herbs' patented technology delivers a concentrated full spectrum alcohol-free liquid extract in a 100% vegetarian capsule.
- Extra Strength
- Liquid Phyto-Caps
- For Ultimate Support of Restful Sleep
- 100% Vegetarian
- A Dietary Supplement
Not to be used during pregnancy or lactation. If you have a medical condition or take pharmaceutical drugs, please consult with your doctor
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Essential Fatty Acids in Hexane Free Nutritional Oils
A balanced blend of two essential polyunsaturated fatty acids (and their derivatives) necessary for many body functions: Omega-3 oil from Flax Seed and Canola, and Omega-6 oil (GLA) from Primrose and Black Currant. Oleic Acid, an Omega-9 oil from Canola and Flax Seed, is a monounsaturated fat not considered "essential" but does play beneficial roles in human health.
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A Wild-grown Full-Spectrum Extract. Flora's premium St. John's Wort is prepared in the traditional manner using freshly gathered wild-grown St. John's Wort flowers. They are sun-infused in extra-virgin olive oil for 1,000 hours to maximize extraction of the full-spectrum active principles into the oil. Flora's St. John's Wort can help reduce the effects of mild depression, anxiety, and nervous tension caused by daily stress.
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The body makes SAM-e from the amino acid methionine. However, you may not be able to obtain sufficient methionine levels simply by ingesting food. In addition, because of age or other factors, levels of SAM-e can fluctuate or decline. Supplementation with SAM-e is the easiest way to increase intake. The enteric coating helps the breakdown of SAM-e occur in the small intestine. In addition, the enteric coating is designed to protect SAM-e from moisture and serve as a protective barrier so that SAM-e can be absorbed where it can provide you with the greatest benefits.
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