Safe Alternatives to Treating Depression
Treating depression naturally is a safer choice than antidepressant drugs. Herbal remedies for depression are effective and have significantly fewer side effects than drugs.
Side effects from antidepressant drugs include constipation, blurred vision, urinary retention, weight gain, headache, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, sedation, loss of libido, and inability to achieve an erection or orgasm.
Herbal remedies for depression include:
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort is the most researched natural antidepressant. Studies[1-3] involving almost 1600 individuals (10 studies compared to antidepressant drugs and 15 compared to placebos) showed St. John’s wort (standardized for hypericin, 0.3%) improved many psychological symptoms, including depression, feelings of worthlessness, anxiety, anorexia, and insomnia. St. John’s wort and antidepressant drugs did not show much of a difference therapeutically, but St. John’s wort has its advantages in terms of side effects and cost.
Kava has been used to reduce anxiety for many years but it is relatively new in treating anxiety-related depression. In several European countries, kava preparations have been approved to treat depression, nervous anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness. In a 1997 German study, kava extract compared favorably to benzodiazepines (drugs used to treat anxiety) in effectiveness but without the unwanted side effects. Kava appears most useful in cases of depression with severe anxiety.
Ginkgo biloba extract (standardized to contain 24% ginkgo flavonglycosides and 6% terpenoids) is especially helpful in treating depression in individuals over the age of fifty. With aging, serotonin receptor sites decrease, making one more susceptible to depression, insomnia, and impaired mental function. In one study, young and old rats were used to determine whether Ginkgo biloba could alter the number of serotonin receptors. At the beginning, the older rats had a 22% lower number of receptors compared to the younger rats. After 21 days of receiving Ginkgo biloba, there was no change in the younger rats but, in the older rats, there was a 33% increase in the number of serotonin receptor sites.
Other herbal remedies for depression include ginger, Siberian ginseng, sage, clove, Rosemary, thyme, and peppermint.
-  Fitoterapia 66 (1995): 43-68
-  J Geriatr Psychiatry Neurol 7 (Suppl 1 ) (1994): S6-8
-  BMJ 313 (1996): 241-2
-  J Pharm Pharmacol 46 (1994): 316-8
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