Depression affects millions of people
worldwide. Many have heard of the reported benefits of St. John's Wort, but in
many cases it just doesn't work. In order to understand why, it's important to
understand that depression can stem from hundreds of things, which often makes
it difficult to treat.
As with most ailments, accurate diagnosis is the key. Unfortunately, most
doctors seem to spend less time looking for the underlying cause of a problem
and more time practicing "cookbook" medicine. (They simply compare the
observed symptoms with those listed as treatable by various drugs and prescribe
the drug that fits best.) In the USA especially, it is common practice to treat
only the symptoms. Any doctor that deviates from this approach may be subject to
Before resorting to any supplement or drug, problems like hypoglycemia (low
blood sugar), diabetes, weak adrenal function, and an underactive thyroid
(hypothyroidism) or pituitary gland should all be ruled out. There are
many self-tests that can be used to identify these problems.
Other causes of depression are hormone
imbalances, chronic infections, pain, cancer, and vitamin deficiencies. One of
the most commonly overlooked contributors to depression is the regular use of
prescription and over-the-counter medications. Blood pressure drugs are
particularly notorious for causing depression. If you take any meds on a regular
basis, be sure to check their side effects.
There are numerous natural remedies that are effective in treating
depression. While St. John's Wort is one of the few that have been shown to be
just as effective as Prozac, it's not the only alternative. The following is a
list of the more commonly known herbs and supplements that have been shown to
help or alleviate depression.
Tryptophan is probably the grandfather of
natural anti-depressants. There is some controversy surrounding this amino acid.
It was removed from the consumer market at almost the exact time in 1990 when
the drug Prozac was being introduced. Coincidence? Tryptophan is available
from BIOS Biochemicals (800) 404-8185. You can reach their web site from the Product
Guide on this site.
5-HTP is a derivative of tryptophan. It is available without a
prescription, and one early study showed that it, too (when given at a dose of
100 milligrams, three times daily), was as effective as Prozac. As you may
recall, Prozac stops the breakdown of the brain neurotransmitter serotonin,
which affects your mood and behavior. Tryptophan and 5-HTP are both converted to
serotonin by the body. Each of these substances works by increasing serotonin
levels in the brain, which in turn improves mood, promotes better sleep, and
helps decrease binge eating related to depression. It is also being used to help
promote weight-loss and treat
insomnia problems much like tryptophan was in the
past. It is also available from BIOS.
SAMe has received a great deal of
publicity. It doesn't seem to work very consistently but thousands of people
swear that it works for them. It causes headaches in some people, but other than
that it seems to have few, if any, significant adverse side effects.
is an essential fatty compound that helps the brain and nerves generate and
transmit electrical impulses. It is very safe, being a naturally occurring
building block in nerves and brain tissue. While it can be helpful in treating
depression, most of the PS research has focused on memory
improvement and the possible treatment of Alzheimer's disease.
PS was derived from cows in the 1980s, but was taken off the market following
the European outbreak of mad cow disease. Now it is made from soy, and tests
have shown the new product to be just as effective.
Ginkgo Biloba (Ginkgo)
Ginkgo is also best known for enhancing memory, but you should really think
of ginkgo anytime you have problems with micro-circulation (inner ear problems
like tinnitus, circulation in the brain resulting in senility, Alzheimer's,
Acetyl L-Carnitine (ALC)
ALC, another compound that can help with depression, is also being
investigated for use in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Like many of the
other compounds mentioned here, it's a strong antioxidant. It also helps protect
and rebuild nerve cell membranes. Like phosphatidylserine and fish oil, it has
been referred to as "brain food."
Also shown to help treat depression. Fish oils and other highly unsaturated
oils (e.g., flaxseed oil, hemp oil, borage oil, etc.) are very unstable and will
quickly break down (turn rancid) when exposed to air, light, and heat. These
oils are essential for the development of nerve tissue.
Although it is rarely discussed, these essential fatty acids also provide a
means by which the body can store light energy, or energy from the sun. Despite
what most people have come to believe, sunlight is essential to good health.
Light is made up of small particles of energy called photons. If your body has
adequate amounts of essential fatty acids from sources such as fish oil, photons
will pass through the skin and be stored with the help of these essential fatty
It should come as no surprise that in areas of the world that have the least
amount of sunlight, the traditional diet contains the highest amounts of
essential fatty acids. For example, the Eskimos traditionally ate cold-water
fish, such as salmon, and whale and seal blubber, which are some of the richest
sources of essential fatty acids. When this type of diet was followed, there
wasn't a problem in Eskimo society with depression, suicide, alcoholism,
obesity, and heart disease. Only after the Standard American Diet (SAD) diet was
introduced in place of the traditional diet did problems like these begin to
Simple exposure to sunlight or high-intensity, full-spectrum lights can
eliminate seasonal problems with depression. That treatment, however, is far
more effective and the results appear more quickly when the diet is also
supplemented with either fish oils or fresh flaxseed oil. Also, people who
choose to grind their flaxseed fresh each morning find that bowel irregularity
has quickly become a thing of the past as well. Sunlight and fresh ground
flaxseed every day is probably the first thing one should try for mild to
moderate problems with depression as it is the easiest and least expensive
methods to employ.
Inositol is part of the vitamin B family, and can help with depression,
insomnia, and nerve problems such as diabetic neuropathy. (A dose of 500
milligrams of inositol taken about an hour before bedtime works almost as well
as tryptophan for insomnia problems.)
This is a particularly good supplement to be taking if you have
which very often leads to nerve degeneration, or what is called diabetic
neuropathy. Nerves start to degenerate when blood sugar levels are high and
myomositol (a blood-sugar alcohol) levels are low. Diabetics can help stop nerve
degeneration by regularly taking inositol, which will increase levels of
myomositol in the body. The suggested dosage for depression and diabetes would
be 500 milligrams three times a day. (Taking 500 to 1000 milligrams a day of
acetyl-L-carnitine (ALC), can also help prevent diabetic neuropathy.) You can find inositol at any health food
store, or you can order it from Freeda Vitamins (800) 777-3737. At one
time they were offering a 20% discount to Dr. David Williams Alternatives
B6, B12, and Bc (Folic Acid)
A deficiency in any one of these B-family
vitamins can result in depression. B6 and folic acid are generally not the
culprits in depression. However, when a person's mood improves dramatically
after taking a multi-B vitamin complex, these two elements are often the reason.
For decades, nutritionally oriented doctors have recognized and treated
depression with vitamin B12 injections. The results can be quite dramatic and
almost immediate. Vitamin B12 deficiencies are one of the most common vitamin
deficiencies in the elderly, leading to depression, chronic fatigue, nerve
problems, and memory loss. Oral doses in the range of 500 to 1000 micrograms
have been shown to restore vitamin B12 levels.
DMG was first utilized by the Russians to
improve the performance of athletes. At the time, it was called pangamic acid,
or vitamin B15. Numerous studies have shown that it improves the
function of the immune system. There is no published research proving that it's
helpful in treating depression. However, there are dozens of anecdotal and
personal reports that DMG has dramatically improved depression.
Changes will often be noted within a week to ten days after taking 125
milligrams daily. DMG is one of those "sleepers" that very few people
know about and is available from Progressive or Standard Process Labs which you
will find in the Product Guide.
At one time they were offering a 25% discount to Dr. David Williams Alternatives
Bacopa monniera (Brahmi)
Few people outside the Indian Ayurvedic healing community seem to know about
Brahmi. Most of the research has been conducted in India. Brahmi is an herbal
preparation that has been used for centuries in India to treat nervous
disorders, improve learning, and provide nourishment to the brain.
Clinical trials in India have shown that
Brahmi does indeed help with depression, decrease fatigue, improve memory, and
increase learning ability. Its antioxidant activity also provides a protective
factor against neurological damage. (Altern
Med Rev 99;4(3):144-61)
Numerous herbs in the US.are referred to
and sold as Brahmi, yet most are not Bacopa monniera. This practice makes
shopping for the product somewhat difficult. There are a couple of suppliers
that sell the herb Bacopa, but the extract that was studied extensively
at the Centre for Drug Research, India (CDRI), doesn't seem to be available in
the USA. In the UK., Australia, Malaysia, and India, the extract is being sold
under the name MemoryPlus. You can order the capsules of the whole plant from a
company called Himalaya USA at 800-869-4640. It markets a product called Bacopa
and a combination product called Mind Care, which contains several Indian herbs
associated with promoting mental awareness and improving memory.
Valerian root - NOT
Valerian root has also been used and recommended repeatedly for the treatment
of depression and anxiety. However, while it may work initially, over time it
seems to place an extra burden on the adrenal glands. With continued use, it's
not uncommon for a person to experience symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness upon
rising from a seated or lying position, shakiness, headaches, irritability, and
all the other problems associated with decreased adrenal function (hypoadrenia)
and blood sugar fluctuations. It is not recommended for long term use.
With so many options to choose from, most people will be able to find a
non-drug solution that will help them overcome their depression. It's a good
idea to include fish oil and flaxseed oil or ground flaxseed in your diet
anyway, and most of the rest of these remedies are easy to find and use. Just
make sure that you rule out physical or drug causes before you proceed with any
of these therapies.
What Causes Illness
do you deal with depression and/or anxiety without drugs?