Looking for natural remedies for depression? Struggling with your symptoms? I was too. I spent ages trying to find the information I desperately needed.
I wanted to treat my depression instead of just alleviating the symptoms. I also wanted to avoid the side effects I’d experienced with antidepressants.
Fortunately I was able to unearth a number of such remedies. They are all natural and free from side effects. And they all help to cure the underlying depression, as well as bringing relief to the symptoms.
I’m going to go through them all in this post. I’ll give you an overview of each one, and provide you with some basic recommendations.
So, without further ado . . .
Conventional Depression Treatment
Conventional depression treatment usually involves the use of antidepressants. These are often combined with some form of psychotherapy or counselling.
It’s true that antidepressants do help many patients with depression. However, they work by alleviating the symptoms rather than curing the underlying illness. Once a patient has come off the medication, the illness will often recur in the future.
Antidepressants also have a number of potential side effects, some very serious. These include weight gain, high blood pressure and even suicidal thoughts.
For more information on antidepressants, see Finding The Best Antidepressant – Cutting Through the Confusion
In addition to medication, psychotherapy and counselling are also commonly used. Both can be effective long-term treatments for depression, especially when used with other natural remedies.
Natural Remedies for Depression
Family and Friends
Humans are social animals, and we need social interaction for our mental wellbeing. Strong, supportive relationships with family and friends can really help someone struggling with depression.
If you have no family or friends you can turn to for encouragement and support, joining a support group can give you a real boost. And if you feel up to it, volunteering can also really help.
Getting regular exercise plays an important role when recovering from depression. Exercise boosts your energy, helps you sleep better and builds confidence and self-esteem. This will help reduce depressive symptoms and contribute to long-term recovery.
Aim to exercise three to five days a week for at least 20 minutes. Walking is arguably the best exercise for boosting your happy hormones and energy levels. However, you can choose any type of exercise that you like, such as yoga, jogging, Pilates, calisthenics and weight training.
The most important thing is that you get enough exercise, in whatever shape or form.
Spend Time Outdoors
Moderate, regular exposure to sunlight helps maintain optimum levels of vitamin D.
It’s not fully understood what role vitamin D plays in helping to treat depression. However, vitamin D receptors have been identified in the areas of the brain associated with depression.
Regardless, people with depression often have low levels of vitamin D. Increasing it to optimum levels has been shown to reduce depressive symptoms.
Ideally you should get 10 to 20 minutes exposure to sunlight every day.
A healthy diet is essential for preventing or treating depression. That’s because proper nutrition plays a big part in the proper functioning of the different neurotransmitters.
In a nutshell, neurotransmitters are the brain’s messengers. They send messages back and forth, controlling a number of functions in the body. Functions such as appetite, energy levels – and most importantly, mood.
Ideal diets are those that emphasise vegetables, fruits and fish. Good examples are the traditional diets of Okinawa or the Mediterranean.
Conversely, diets with a lot of processed food increase the risk of depression. They are also less than ideal for recovering from the illness.
Below are the foods that are important when preventing or treating depression:
Fruit and Vegetables
Fruit and vegetables provide many of the nutrients essential for mood support. They are also rich in antioxidants, which help protect against the effects of stress. Fruit and vegetables that are particularly rich in antioxidants include blueberries, bell peppers, spinach and broccoli.
B-Complex Rich Foods
A number of the B-complex vitamins play vital roles in mood support. They are needed for the production of neurotransmitters and the maintenance of brain cells. They are also needed for metabolising carbohydrates (the brain’s source of fuel) and regulating energy release in brain cells.
The specific B-complex vitamins in question are Niacin (B3), Thiamine (B1), Folic Acid (B9), B6 (pyridoxine), B12 (cobalamin) and Choline (one of a trio of chemicals collectively known as vitamin B4).
For a diet rich in B-complex vitamins, make sure to include plenty of whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, dark leafy vegetables and fruit.
This will ensure you are getting enough of the B-complex vitamins need for optimal mental health. With one exception – B12. Rich animal sources of B12 include lean meat and eggs (in moderation).
Strictly speaking, animal sources are not required for B12. But due to “civilised” food production and eating habits, supplementation is necessary if you are vegan.
The reasons why need detailed explanation, and will be fully covered in a future post.
Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat. They one of the most important elements in your diet for preventing or treating mood disorders.
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for the proper functioning of the different neurotransmitters. As mentioned previously, neurotransmitters are the brain’s messengers. Therefore, anything that supports their proper functioning will help prevent or treat mood disorders.
Foods rich in omega-3 include oily fish, walnuts, flax seeds, rapeseed oil (canola oil) and egg yolks.
In addition to omega-3, there are other healthy fats that should be consumed. These healthy fats provide vitamins and minerals important for mood support. They are also rich in antioxidants, which help protect against the effects of stress.
Foods rich in these other healthy fats include nuts, avocado and extra virgin olive oil.
In addition to eating healthy fats, it’s important to minimise consumption of unhealthy trans-fats (hydrogenated oils). Trans-fats are bad for overall health, and have been linked to increased depression risk. They are found in processed foods like junk food, baked goods and commercial snack foods.
As for saturated fat, it’s fine in moderation. Stick to lean meat and low-fat/fat-free dairy products and you’ll be fine.
Eating probiotic-rich foods helps support cognitive function and promotes mental wellness. This is due to the gut-brain connection. In other words, there are direct lines of communication from the gut to the brain.
Foods rich in probiotics include kombucha, miso and sauerkraut.
For more information on the role of probiotics, see Gut Health and Depression – A VERY Strong Connection.
Avoid Refined Carbohydrates and Sugars
In addition to all the foods you should be eating, there are some unhealthy foods to avoid as well.
In particular, foods high in refined carbohydrates and sugar.
These foods trigger a release of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that contributes to wellbeing and happiness. That’s why many people crave them when they are feeling down.
However, they can cause problems down the line, such as weight gain, sleep problems and low energy levels. These will only serve to make your depression worse.
Not only that, diets high in refined carbohydrates and sugar are harmful to your brain. That’s because they cause both inflammation and oxidative stress.
Avoid eating these foods and stick to natural whole foods.
A healthy, well-balanced diet is the best way to get all of the required nutrients. However, even if you follow such a diet, supplementation is still a good idea.
Modern food production has resulted in many foods with lower nutrient levels than in the past. This is made worse by the way many fruits and vegetables are stored. On top of this, the stresses of modern life can lead to greater nutritional requirements.
A multi vitamin/mineral supplement is a sensible precaution to ensure good overall nutrition.
As previously mentioned, some B-complex vitamins vital roles in neurotransmitter production, brain cell maintenance, and energy regulation in the brain.
A B-complex supplement is a great way to ensure you are getting enough B-complex vitamins. And again, B12 supplementation is essential for vegans.
As mentioned previously, omega-3 fats are essential for neurotransmitter function. Fish oil supplements are a great way to ensure you are getting enough omega-3 fats.
For vegetarians and vegans, algae-based supplements are a good alternative. However, it should be noted that fish oil is a richer source of omega-3 than algae-based supplements.
As mentioned previously, a deficiency of vitamin D is linked to an increased risk of mood disorders such as depression.
Moderate, regular exposure to sunlight is the best way to ensure you are getting enough. If this is not possible, a vitamin D supplement is a good alternative.
As with eating probiotic foods, taking a probiotic supplement helps increase energy levels, support cognitive function and promote mental wellness.
Probiotic supplementation is a great way to ensure you are getting enough probiotics. Just make sure to choose a supplement that contains Bifidobacterium longum ATCC 15707. Also check that it contains inulin. Inulin is a prebiotic that feeds the probiotic bacteria.
Holy Basil & Turmeric
Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) and Turmeric ( Curcuma longa) are both adaptogen herbs.
Adaptogen herbs help our bodies react to and recover from stress, both physical and mental. Some also have additional benefits, such as the ability to ease depression.
Holy Basil: Effective for easing depression. It’s also good for stress, both physical and mental. Finally, it helps reduce stress-related anxiety.
Turmeric: Effective for easing depression. It also helps boost brain function.
In addition to being so beneficial, these herbs have no side effects.
You may be wondering why I haven’t included St. John’s wort. This post is all about natural remedies for depression – without side effects.
However, St. John’s wort does have a number of potential side effects. That’s why I’ve written a separate post about it: St. John’s Wort for Depression – A Safer, Natural Treatment?
A Word of Caution
If you currently take any antidepressant medications, don’t just stop taking them. Doing so can result in severe withdrawal symptoms. It is essential that you talk to your doctor or psychiatrist first.
I’ve covered 16 natural remedies for depression, split into the following groups:
- Herbal Remedies
You are now armed with a lot more choices in the fight against. All are natural and all are free from side effects. You can now treat your depression, instead of just treating the symptoms.
Okay, it’s over to you now. Go through these remedies again. Pick one to start with – and put it into practice.