10 Natural Remedies for Depression

As with many mental conditions, people who suffer from depression often feel that it is impossible to overcome. This is made worse by the fact that the symptoms of depression usually include having low energy levels  and motivation. There is no simple solution to depression but many people find that a combination of natural remedies and therapies can help them to beat it. The key to healing from depression is in taking small steps to overcome it rather than looking for an overnight cure or expecting to be free of it quickly. I suggest trying one remedy and one therapy to begin with, being kind to yourself, and not expecting things to improve immediately. When you find what works for you in the long-term, all the initial hard work will have been worth it.

Natural Remedies

1. St John’s Wort

St John’s Wort was a common remedy used in ancient Greece to treat ‘nervous disorders’. The medicinal herb has since been used to treat various illnesses including depression. A study found that St John’s Wort was as effective as standard antidepressants in treating the symptoms of depression, and it had significantly fewer side effects than prescription drugs. St John’s Wort is ideal for treating mild to moderately severe depressive disorders, and in some countries it is prescribed to patients by doctors. St John’s Wort is best taken in tablet form, but teas are available as well. Since doses through drinking tea can be hard to ascertain, start with small amounts and use the herb sparingly, until you feel that you are comfortable with increasing the dosage.

St John’s Wort can interact with other medications, for example it can stop birth control drugs from working, so it’s important to seek medical advice before self-remedying.

2. Lavender

Lavender is a well known remedy for treating anxiety, and similar effectiveness has been found through trials testing the use of lavender for treatment of depression. While more research is needed in this area to find out how this works, lavender is a safe and easy remedy to use and I highly recommend it. Since the smell of lavender alone can help to calm people down, it’s worth keeping the fresh herb in your home or place or work. I recommend growing lavender in a pot at home or in the garden, and also carrying around handkerchiefs that have been dabbed with essential oil. Inhale the scent from the handkerchief throughout the day and see whether it helps to lift your mood or stave off other symptoms of depression.

3. Saffron

Saffron has long been known as the spice that is worth it’s weight in gold. A study also found that saffron supplementation significantly reduced depression symptoms in participants. While this remedy is not available in tablet form and the effects of taking it long-term are not yet known, there is no harm to adding saffron to your cooking. Eastern cultures have been cooking with saffron for centuries, and if you can increase how much you consume over time you might find yourself feeling a lot healthier, mentally.

4. B Vitamins

Although the link between B vitamins and mood is not fully understood, there is some research that shows a link between lack of B vitamins, specifically B12, and depression. With this in mind, it’s worth taking a general multivitamin containing B vitamins, especially if you don’t have a good balanced diet already. It is also important to increase your intake of foods that contain B vitamins, specifically B12. Some B vitamin-rich foods include yeast extract, vegetables, breakfast cereals, porridge, potatoes, wholegrains and brown rice – all foods that make up a healthy, balanced diet.

5. Vitamin D

Some interesting research has been done into the effect of insufficient vitamin D on moods and depression. A lack of vitamin D has been linked to higher levels of anxiety and depression, which suggests that supplementing the vitamin would result in lower instances of depression. More studies need to be done to know this for sure, but there is no harm in taking a multivitamin that contains vitamin D, which may be the source of your depression. Try increasing the range of fresh. unprocessed foods you eat as well, to ensure a balanced diet

Therapies

It’s difficult to stay motivated when you’re depressed but hopefully one of the natural remedies listed above can help to overcome that symptom enough for you to set up a healthy therapy routine. Humans are creatures of habit so if you can commit to one of the following therapies as a regular routine, chances are you’ll be able to keep it up. Over time you will almost certainly feel the mental health benefits of doing so.

6. Acupuncture

A study found that electroacupuncture (EA) stimulation is as effective the prescribed drug amitriptyline for treating patients with depression. After six weeks of acupuncture treatment patients reported feeling less depressed and also lower levels of anxiety, without any of the side effects of the commonly prescribed drugs. I suggest signing up to a six week course of acupuncture and keeping a journal throughout so that you can keep track of your moods before and after the treatment. Acupuncture has been found to have other health benefits too,  so you have nothing to lose with committing to this therapy for a while.

7. Meditation

Is there anything meditation can’t treat? Meditation has a long history in many traditions across the world and is even practised in some workplaces and schools in Eastern cultures today. Although it has been growing in popularity over the last 30 years in Western culture, few people realise that meditation is not about staring blankly into space but about calming and training the mind, which explains the basic power behind the therapy.

In fact, research suggests that as little as 30 minutes of meditation a day can improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. The most effective use of meditation has been found over an eight-week period of ‘mindfulness meditation’, which involves focusing on relaxing the body and mind while accepting your feelings and thoughts without judgment. I suggest making meditation a habit by doing it at a specific time of day, every day without fail, and starting out small, say for 10-15 minutes at a time, then building up to the 30-40 minutes to get the full health benefits. Make sure you practice your routine in a quiet room with no or few distractions. Leave your phone outside the room and sit cross-legged with a straight back. Breathe and focus on harnessing your awareness. People who are new to meditation find that this is easier said than done, but stick at it and it will come with time. The important thing is to be mindful, ie aware of what is happening inside you. Allow your mind and body to relax and view the thoughts and feelings in your mind without dwelling on them or analysing them as you normally would. Most people feel refreshed after a single meditation session so this should help fuel you to keep up the routine.

8. Yoga

There has been much research into the effects of yoga on the human body and it has consistently been found to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Regular yoga practice has been found to reduce stress, reduce sensitivity to pain, improve mood and significantly reduce levels of tension, anger, anxiety, depression, and fatigue. So what are you waiting for? Sign up for a regular yoga class now, and make it part of your routine to do yoga at home every day or as many times a week as you can manage. A yoga CD can help to walk you through the postures, or you can use free tutorials that can be found online including YouTube videos if you need visual guidance. In my opinion a yoga teacher is essential to begin with. People who find it difficult to sit still and meditate find that yoga is particularly helpful to them in helping to focus their minds.

9. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

There is much evidence for the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for treating depression, much more so than counselling. CBT focuses on aiming for rational thought by addressing emotions, behaviors and cognitive processes that contribute to or cause the depression. Through chalking up clear goals and ways to overcome unhealthy mental habits CBT empowers individuals to tackle the roots of their depression. If you can afford to invest in a potentially costly but extremely effective therapy, make this the one you choose. Your mental health is worth the investment.

10. Exercise

There is plenty of research into the impacts of exercise on mental health and regular exercise has been found to improve mood in people with mild to moderate depression. Exercise can also help to treat severe depression in patients who are already on antidepressants, and help to replace antidepressants over time. In fact, one study found that the effects of regular exercise actually lasted longer than those of antidepressants, and that participants were less likely to relapse into depression when they kept up a regular exercise routine.

So how much exercise do you need to do to get the full benefits? One study found that on average walking fast for around 35 minutes a day five times a week, or one hour a day three times a week, had a significant influence on mild to moderate depression symptoms. So what are you waiting for? Go for a walk or run around the block right now, and you are almost certainly guaranteed to return home feeling well enough to start tackling your depression.

Disclaimer: I am not a licensed doctor or herbalist. Please consult a doctor or medical provider for medical issues and before self-remedying, especially if you are taking prescription medication.

About the Author

Zion Lights lives in the south of England in the green county of Devonshire. Zion is the Contributing Editor of JUNO magazine, blogs for The Huffington Post, and freelance writes here and there. Favourite topics include science, the environment, green and gentle parenting. Zion aims to love a low impact lifestyle. You can follow her work at www.zionlights.co.uk and tweet her @ziontree.