Natural Remedies for Depression

Depression and stress can both wreak havoc in a person's life, especially if experienced at the same time or on an ongoing basis. While there are a number of drugs that can be used to treat either one, there are also a multitude of natural remedies that can be used. While clinical depression (deep depression that lasts more than two weeks) does need medical care, much can be done at home to ease the symptoms as well.


Physical activity can help with both depression and stress. Because depression tends to cause fatigue and lack of energy, however, performing any type of exercise may seem impossible or even desirable. The good news is that even light exercise will provide good results when it comes to lifting mood and providing stress relief. Walking, biking or skating are all fine choices, as are hiking and swimming. Outdoor activities might be better for most, as the clear air can also help destress. If this is not possible, even a 15-minute bout at the gym or a longer-than-usual walk with your dog will also suffice. Yoga is also a great exercise option, as it can help with concentration and calming down the mind, as well as keeping the body in motion with minimal effort.

Exercise is an excellent means to improve mental health. Those who exercise commonly experience a boost in mood, because exercise has an impact on the chemical levels in the brain that are related to feelings of contentment and ease. Exercise also can ease anxiety and depression symptoms by providing a safe physical outlet for feelings of tension or sadness, and by elevating self-esteem by allowing you to feel as though you are doing something good for yourself.


With a tradition older than 2,000 years, acupuncture has become a well-respected medical option to treat numerous diseases, including depression. According to the National Institutes of Health, acupuncture balances the energy in the body, leading to mental and emotional equilibrium. This leads to alterations in the brain chemistry that will eventually affect neurotransmitters and have a positive impact on depression and stress. Numerous studios and clinical programs have studied the effect of acupuncture in patients suffering from clinical depression and determined that it works best when combined with other techniques (especially the use of herbs) and when used for a period of at least six weeks. Acupuncture is particularly beneficial to those who can't afford drug treatment or who prefer not to use chemical elements but still need to receive treatment because of the severity of the symptoms. Up to 80 percent of insurance companies cover acupuncture, and only licensed acupuncturists should be used to ensure top quality and safety specifications.

Art Therapy

Art therapy has long been used to treat depression in hospitals and clinics. For the most part, however, the efficacy has been lost in the general population and rarely used for therapeutic reasons. While few programs exist to treat depression for non-clinical residents through art therapy, the same benefits can be obtained by taking classes or attending a workshop. Painting, pottery or sculpture classes offered at adult education centers or community colleges are a good place to start, as they can be used as a way to destress and learn to focus attention on something outside the internal issue being experienced. This can also be experienced at home through the use of paints, pastels or crayons, by either drawing and painting (abstracts are fine, as you're not going for quality) or by coloring a small children's book in your spare time.


The use of touch to relieve stress and depression may seem like an obvious choice, but many people ignore it. Medical massage and reflexology are especially effective, as they target specific points for the key organs affected by stress and depression, such as the kidneys, heart and adrenal glands. Stimulation of these organs will result in better energy balance and will help the body release toxins. General massage, however, is also highly effective, especially if done in a setting leading to general relaxation, such as a low-light, calm spa room. The power of touch has been documented in different studies, such as the eight-week trial performed by Stanford University and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), in which participants experienced an increase in energy, better appetite, better concentration and higher self-respect and sense of worth after receiving 12 massage sessions over a period of eight weeks.


There are many herbs that can be used to treat depression and stress, although finding specific ones that can treat both problems may be difficult. St John's Wort has long been used to treat depression, although the herb interferes with certain types of drugs (including birth control pills and depression medication) so it should be used only under medical supervision. Other herbs that are widely used to treat depression include Kava Kava, Licorice, Ginkgo biloba and Siberian ginseng. When it comes to treating stress, the herbs to take are those that lower anxiety, improve sleep and exhaustion. St. John's Wort can be used for this, but other herbal combinations are more commonly suggested, such as Wild Yam and Gotu Kola. Chamomile, peppermint and valerian all help with insomnia and can help relax muscles and balance the nervous system.

Common Herbs Used for Depression

Thousands of people suffer silently from symptoms of depression such as sleep problems, fatigue, persistent sad thoughts, and feelings of hopelessness. Although severe cases of depression are best treated by a physician, nature offers many options for lifting mild to moderate depression without the use of prescription drugs.

St. John's Wort
Perhaps the most widely recognized herb used in treating mild to moderate depression is St. John's wort. It acts in the same way that some types of prescription antidepressants do, except it is much gentler on the body. Overall mood, self-esteem and sleep patterns may improve if you take St. John's wort.

Caution: Consult a physician before taking St. John's wort if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or taking prescription medication including birth control pills. St. John's wort should not be taken by individuals who are taking prescription MAO inhibitors. It may cause sensitivity to sunlight, and other reported side effects include fatigue, dizziness, dry mouth, anxiety and gastrointestinal disturbance.

Lemon Balm
During stressful situations, lemon balm works as a tonic for the stomach and digestive organs. Available in tea or capsule form, lemon balm may promote relaxation, ease tension and relieve anxiety and panic. No side effects have been reported from taking lemon balm.

Although SAM-e is an amino acid rather than an herb, it works quickly and effectively against depression and does so naturally and without any known side effects.

Caution: SAM-e should not be taken by people who are already taking prescription medications for depression or who have been diagnosed with manic-depressive disorder.

Kava Kava
A native plant of the Polynesian islands, kava kava is available in liquid, powder, tablet, tincture or capsule form as well as tea. Upon taking kava kava, you might notice that it numbs the lips and tongue, which is because of blood vessel constriction.

When taken in moderation, kava kava can give you a sense of general well-being and relaxation. In fact, when taken in high doses, it may have an intoxicating effect that is similar to drinking alcohol or using marijuana. Kava kava helps depression by inducing calmness. As kava kava is known to cause drowsiness, stop taking it or reduce the manufacturer-recommended dosage if this becomes a problem.

Also known as ma huang, ephedra is an herb that has undergone lots of scrutiny because it is an ingredient in many diet pills as well as products geared toward improving athletic performance. Nevertheless, ephedra produces tangible effects on mood because it immediately stimulates the release of dopamine into the bloodstream. You may experience heightened alertness, improved mood and decreased fatigue. For this reason, ephedra is useful for individuals who are suffering from a lethargic type of depression.

Caution: Ephedra should never be taken for a long period of time. According to a report published by the American Journal of Psychiatry, long-term use of ephedra may cause severe depression, psychosis, hallucinations, sleep disturbance and thoughts of suicide.


Certain chemicals in the brain are related to the moods an individual experiences. Dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin, for instance, all provide feelings of well-being, closeness and contentment. The production of these chemicals is related to diet. Increasing intake of folic acid, the B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids therefore may provide relief from depression and anxiety. These can be found in foods like spinach, fish and nuts.

Detox diets are a dime a dozen and are said to start the body on an aggressive weight loss program by "cleansing the liver" and jump starting the metabolic system. In short, the diet is said to remove chemicals and toxins from the blood that build up with the intake of junk foods. This "detox" is said to help make our body functions better. The depression detox diet is said to help improve the mood.

Detox and Depression

Depression is a disease, and there is no scientific fact that suggests that a diet will help the disease. However, helping improve the body and restoring the body can only be good for you, so patients with depression can try the detox diet under a physician's instructions.

Like any detox diet the focus of the depression detox diet is the consumption of water. With eight glasses of water being the norm, detox diets suggest that people double that amount and drink at least 16 glasses of water every day.

Limit Refined Sugars, Salt and Saturated Fats
While most foods found in the supermarket today cause some sort of toxin buildup in the body, those that contain salt, saturated fats and refined sugars are said to be the worst. Dietitians suggest that detox diets work most effectively when these foods are removed from the diet. Sugar "highs" and '"lows" can be caused by the intake of refined sugar, so removing this from the diet may help control mood swings.

Lemon Detox
A detox diet is a short-term diet and the lemon detox diet, though not healthy or safe in the long term, is said to help start patients on a depression detox. This diet consists of lots of fresh lemon mixed with water and some pepper and "syrup of organic trees," namely a mixture of palm and maple syrups. The lemon juice helps in the detoxing of your body and the pepper and water jump start the metabolism.

Lemon Detox Advantages: The lemon detox syrup concoction is made from natural sugars that contain only 70 calories per glass. This helps satisfy the body's need for energy and also curbs the hunger pangs. The blends of natural sugars help the body's metabolism to continue on a regular rate, and the absence of highs and lows in sugar levels help control the mood. The syrup also contains zinc and calcium, which are necessary for biochemical activities of the body.

The Raw Food Detox
The raw food detox is a healthier form of depression detox. Consisting of raw fruits and vegetables combined with a green lemonade drink, this diet creates a good combination of foods that can be continued for a longer time that most detox diets.

Depression Detox
Depression detox is not a separate and special diet. Rather, detox diets that help regulate the body's metabolism and start it on the road to a well-balanced biochemical system, cleansing the body of toxins and chemicals that may interfere with the brain and nervous systems signals, are called depression detox diets. They may not be "scientifically effective" but do help regulate mood swings in patients with depression and other related disorders by helping regulate the drain of energy.

Natural Foods for Depression

If you are like most people, you turn to your favorite comfort food when you are feeling depressed. The problem is that most comfort foods do not really do much to make us feel better, and they might contribute to excessive weight gain, which could lead to more depression. Try to avoid sugary processed foods when you are feeling down and instead eat natural foods for depression that help you relieve your symptoms and have a positive effect on your waistline.

Foods with B Vitamins
Some types of depression are thought to be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain that do not allow your nerve cells to communicate correctly. B vitamins can help your neurotransmitters to function at a high level and improve nerve cell communication. Try eating broccoli, bananas, spinach, peas, pinto beans, asparagus, cauliflower, onions, squash and brussels sprouts.

Eat Foods with Phenylalanine
The University of Maryland Medical Center reports some clinical evidence that phenylalanine may be effective as part of a comprehensive therapy for depression because of enhanced production of brain chemicals, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. Some foods containing phenylalanine include sunflower seeds, soybeans, black beans, dairy products, meat products and eggs.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
According to a recent report on ABC, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have been doing studies on the effects of fish oil on depression. So far the results have been positive. The study was started because scientists noticed that countries whose population ate a lot of fish had very low levels of depression. It specifically looked at omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil and other foods. Foods that contain these helpful omega-3s include salmon, tuna, walnuts, flaxseeds,  and soybeans.

When cooking your food, add some spices to help fight depression naturally.These can include ginger and rosemary. Ginger is one of those old folk remedies used to treat depression. While there may not be many scientific studies, years of tradition say that it is useful. Rosemary does contain cineole, proven to help stimulate the central nervous system, which could help depression symptoms.
Make some ginger tea, which can be found in many grocery stores in the health food section, or rosemary salmon (remember those omega-3s) to help your depression.

Eat Foods with Tryptophan
Tryptophan helps our bodies produce serotonin. A lack of serotonin has been shown to cause both sleep problems and depression. To get more tryptophan in your system eat turkey, chicken, tuna, salmon, peanuts, soy products, dark chocolate, sunflower seeds, eggs and milk products.


Psychotherapy can help alleviate depression and anxiety, because it allows you to discuss the issues related to their symptoms. Often, the simple act of acknowledging the symptoms to another individual can provide some relief, especially if the therapist provides you with feelings of validation and safety.

Asking for help can be intimidating, but it might be exactly what you need. A psychiatrist can help rule out any medical causes of your depression, like thyroid conditions. Common kinds of therapy for depression are cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy and psychodynamic therapy. Your doctor can help determine which type is best for you. Therapy can help you determine the root of your depression and will teach you the tools you need to cope and recover. Some people also benefit from group therapy sessions.


Many people benefit emotionally from the use of prescription drugs. Your doctor will decide what medicine might be the most helpful for you. Don't be surprised if you have to try several different types of antidepressants. The best medication will help pull you out of your depression with the fewest side effects. Remember that medication alone is usually not enough; it works best in combination with therapy.


When you do not get enough rest, you can become depressed and anxious because you feel so tired and overwhelmed. This is exacerbated by the fact that lack of sleep lowers the amount of chemicals related to feelings of happiness and contentment. Getting some shut-eye thus can give you a new perspective.

Lifestyle Changes

There are many changes you can make to improve your mental health. Diet and exercise have a profound effect not just on physical health, but also on your mood. Try to integrate a daily exercise routine into your schedule. If you aren't used to daily exercise, start slow. Even a brisk walk every day will get the blood flowing and stimulate your brain to create endorphins. These endorphins are hormones that give you a naturally high after working out. Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet packed with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and whole grains will lead to a feeling of well-being. Fattening and sugary foods can make you feel sluggish and cause blood sugar levels to become unbalanced. Eating right and exercising can also get your body into better shape, giving your more confidence.

Reducing Stress

Stress is often a contributing factor to depression. Lessen your stress by learning relaxation techniques like abdominal breathing and progressive muscle relaxation. Yoga and meditation are also helpful for managing stress. Get enough sleep every night. Exhaustion can wreak havoc on your mood and nervous system, perpetuating your depression. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep a night for optimum health benefits.

Alternative Techniques

Alternative techniques such as meditation and massage work to relieve depression and anxiety because they relax both the body and the mind. Meditation can help you to see past the present moment and get the bigger picture, while massage can reduce physical symptoms of depression and anxiety, such as tense muscles. As with any treatment, these alternative techniques should be carried out under the supervision of certified professionals.

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