Natural remedies for depression: Are they effective?

Natural remedies for depression

The vast majority of people suffering from depression or anxiety disorders are prescribed medications to improve psycho-emotional health. Antidepressants literally save hundreds of thousands of lives every year.
Current psychotherapeutic treatments are impossible to imagine without such drugs as Prozac (Fluoxetine), Zoloft (Sertraline), Lexapro (Escitalopram), Paxil (Paroxetine).

Although antidepressants cause many side effects, there are no readily available alternatives. Despite this tendency, the demand for natural remedies for depression has quadrupled in the last 10 years.

Studies conducted by the US National Institutes of Health have shown that about 25% of patients suffering from depression related disorders regularly choose natural alternatives to antidepressant medication. Some, supplement daily prescriptions with alternative natural remedies as means to further alleviate symptoms of anxiety. And some look for a complete replacement for prescription antidepressants.

The benefits of natural remedies for depression have yet to be proven, and they are by no means a substitute for prescription drugs in terms of effectiveness. It is important to understand and to be clearly aware of the risks of self-medication. After all, most natural antidepressant substances can be obtained without a prescription, which means you can elude recommendations of a medical professional.

Consequently, the active ingredients, toxicity, proper prescription quantity as well as possible side effects are mostly unknown and poorly understood.

This article describes two of the most known natural alternatives for depression and anxiety medicine:

  • St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum)
  • S-Adenosyl methionine (SAMe).

St. John’s wort

This is a natural remedy for depression that has been used extensively for ages. It is an extract of St. John’s wort plant that inhibits the reuptake of serotonin and norepinephrine. The effect is quite similar to that of prescription medication, although ten times weaker, hence patients receive only a mediocre therapeutic effect. This substance is best used as prevention of episodes of depression, or at the onset.

Clinical studies have shown that St. John’s wort is much more effective in treating depression than placebo, but limited in its effect at advanced stages of depression related illnesses in comparison to the prescription drugs. Therefore, it is not worth considering this substance as an alternative to regular antidepressants.


S-Adenosyl methionine is synthesized from the amino acid l-methionine and prescribed as a daily supplement. It has been proven that the lack of this substance causes depression and aggravates the psycho emotional state.
Clinical studies based on cerebrospinal fluid tests from patients suffering from depression have shown a lack of SAMe in most cases.

As with St. John’s wort, SAMe has been observed to be a better treatment than placebo. Furthermore, this substance is used as a supplement agent alongside Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) medication when treating severe cases of depression. Patients supplementing their treatment with SAMe recover much faster and treatment outcomes improve for 43% of patients.

This natural remedy helps with cognitive impairment, normalizes the psycho emotional state and reduces psychosomatic disorders. Note, that this is just a component that is sometimes lacking in our bodies. It should not be considered a major replacement to antidepressant prescription, and its therapeutic value is limited on its own. It is best used as an additive, especially during withdrawals from depression therapy or at the concluding stages of recovery.

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