Q. Dear Terry, “I’ve been feeling really down in the dumps lately. Depression runs in my family and I think that’s what I’m experiencing. I’m not taking any medications, but I just started seeing a counselor, which has been helping a little bit. I know there are some herbs that can help with mood and depression. What do you suggest?” – F.C., Hilo, HI
A. Dear F.C., I highly encourage you to keep your doctor in the loop with any supplementation you are considering. With that being said, I think I have some options that can make a real difference.
St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) has a long history of use for mood issues and modern research has validated its use for depression. One multi-center clinical study in Germany divided patients into two groups: one taking St. John’s wort, and the other imipramine (a prescription drug for major depression) for six weeks. Both groups showed similar improvements, but St. John’s wort was much better tolerated. In fact, the researchers concluded that St. John’s wort was, “therapeutically equivalent to imipramine in treating mild to moderate depression, but patients tolerate Hypericum better.” They also felt that St. John’s wort should be the first-line treatment, rather than a prescription drug, because it is so much easier on people’s systems. I prefer St. John’s wort that is standardized to 0.3% hypericin and stays in your bloodstream for up to 24 hours. I would take 900 mg of St. John’s wort daily.
For additional support you may want to consider saffron and curcumin. Saffron comes from the plant Crocus sativus and has been used for thousands of years as a spice and also as a medicine. Saffron has been shown to boost serotonin levels, lower cortisol, and help preserve levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is the body’s primary inhibitory enzyme and is often deficient in people with mood issues, like depression. Clinical studies have found that saffron reduces symptoms of milder forms of depression, serious depression with anxiety, and postpartum depression.
Saffron also works synergistically with another well-known botanical, curcumin. Curcumin is a compound from turmeric that helps with numerous diseases, including depression. One study showed that curcumin was as effective as a prescription drug for people with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). In other clinical trials, people suffering from depression felt much better and some individuals improved significantly at just four weeks. After eight weeks, their relief was even more pronounced. I prefer curcumin enhanced with turmeric essential oil for greater absorption. I would take 250 mg of curcumin enhanced with turmeric essential oil and 15 mg of saffron stigma extract twice per day.
Lastly, there is good research on omega-3s for helping with mood and depression. When it comes to omega-3s, I prefer omega-3 fatty acids from salmon, naturally bound to phospholipids and bioactive peptides, as this is much closer to nature and how people were meant to absorb and use these nutrients. This is the way you’d get your omega-3s by eating fish – which means a big difference in stability and ability to transport omega-3s to where they are needed most. I would take 214 mg of a salmon-based omega-3 phospholipid peptide complex in a capsule or 292 mg in a tablet, once or twice per day.
Terry . . . Naturally