Q. Dear Terry, “What natural options are there to help with depression? I’ve tried several medications that either didn’t do anything or made my depression worse. I would love to use natural things to help my mood. What do you suggest?”– Emily D., Jefferson City, MO
A. Dear Emily, 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 St. John’s wort daily.
For additional support you may also 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. You could take curcumin and saffron once or twice daily.
Lastly, you may also benefit by adding omega-3s. When it comes to omega-3s, I prefer those from salmon, naturally bound to phospholipids and beneficial peptides, as this is much closer to nature and how people were meant to absorb and use these nutrients. I would take omega-3s from salmon twice per day.
Terry . . . Naturally