Herbs & Supplements For Treating Depression Naturally

herbs and supplements for depression

Depression can be a horrible experience, and although there are many pharmaceutical options for treatment, they can have some pretty significant side effects and withdrawal symptoms, as well as high financial and emotional costs.

Many antidepressants can cause suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, and have been proved to cause psychotic episodes in some patients. In addition, many have long-term withdrawal syndromes that can be much worse than the original reason for taking them; and without controlled, tapered withdrawal, they can cause major issues for patients trying to stop.

There is also some evidence that long-term use of antidepressants can cause chronic depression to evolve into bipolar disorder. Although natural alternatives can have some side-effects, taken properly they can relieve depression without the severe effects and dangers of prescription medications.

(For those interested in the evidence against antidepressants and other psychoactive drugs, see Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America)

Here are some of the most effective herbs and supplements for treating depression naturally and without the harsh side effects.

St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort has the most scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness as an antidepressant. Although it does have some side-effects, such as sensitivity to the sun and interactions with some prescription medications, it has far fewer than prescription antidepressants. It takes 3 to 6 months of consistent use to reach full effect.

Pick up a tub of St John’s Wort on Amazon here.


Saffron also has some scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness in treating mild depression, however, it is very expensive and may not be a practical alternative unless you are able to grow a significant amount of it yourself.

Did you know saffron is more expensive per gram than gold? You can pick some up in your local health food store or here on Amazon – but be prepared to be shocked by the cost.


Inositol is a glucose-type compound that is known to facilitate the transmission of neurtransmitters such as serotonin. Studies have shown that those with depression and bipolar disorder have below average levels of inosital, and a 1995 study found that taking 12 grams a day improved symptoms better than placebo. Oddly enough, subsequent studies have only focused on its ability to enhance the effect of prescription medications, but the original study results suggest that it is a useful addition to a natural treatment program.

Give inositol a try. You can pick up a whopping 300 capsules on Amazon for less than $20.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil)

Societies that eat large amounts of fish have lower rates of depressive illness, and people with depression have been shown to have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids, providing a good indication that taking omega-3s can help depression. Research is encouraging, and omega-3s have very few side-effects, as well as having cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory effects. With all of these positives, adding omega-3 supplements is a definite option. (CAUTION: Those who are allergic to shellfish should avoid Krill Oil supplements. Stick to fish oil and vegetable derived omega-3s to prevent allergic reactions.)

There are a large number of brands of fish oil available. I personally recommend Nature Made Fish Oil for the price and quality.


SAM-e affects neurotransmitters, including serotonin and dopamine, which are known to be involved in depression. Low levels of SAM-e have been found in depression patients, and it has been found to be as effective as trycyclic antidepressants. It should not be taken by bipolar patients without consulting a doctor, however, as it is known to trigger mania and hypomania in some.

Again, I recommend the Nature Made brand for SAM-e, you can pick up a tub on Amazon here.


Tryptophan is an amino acid necessary to produce the neurotransmitter serotonin. Studies show links between depression and low levels of tryptophan, especially in women; and it was shown to be better than placebo for treating depression in two small studies. L-tryptophan and 5-HTP are both tryptophan supplements, simply being different stages in the production of serotonin. There are, however, some concerns about the purity of L-tryptophan supplements, some of which have been found to contain contaminants and impurities. CAUTION: 5-HTP should not be taken with St. John’s Wort or SAMe.

You can pick up a tub of tryptophan on Amazon – I recommend this one from Source Naturals.

Folate (Vitamin B9)

Folate deficiencies are common in depressed people, especially in those who are not responsive to treatment with antidepressants. Folic acid, a synthetic form of folate, has been shown to be more effective in treating depression in women than placebo (95% of the women receiving folic acid reported improvement, compared to only 60% of those on placebo.)

Another form of folate, 5-MTHF, was found to be about as effective as the antidepressant trazodone in a study in the early 1990s. Folic acid supplements are widely available, and increasing the intake of natural folate in the diet is relatively easy. Folate is found in beef liver, blackeyed peas, spinach, great northern beans, asparagus, rice, green peas, broccoli, avocado, peanuts, romaine lettuce, wheat germ, tomatoes, oranges, orange juice, eggs, cantaloupe, raw papaya, and bananas. B-vitamins are water-soluble, and unless supplements are taken in very large amounts they are quite safe, since the body doesn’t store excess amounts. To prevent deficiencies, you must get adequate amounts every day.

If you can’t stomach the above foods (or not in enough quantity) then you can get a tub of folate supplements on Amazon at a very reasonable price.

Until the development of prescription antidepressants, depression was known as a “self-limiting disease” that rarely became chronic or episodic. As the use of medications has increased, so has the incidence of long-term depressive illness. Since medications rarely address the many deficiencies commonly associated with depression, supplements and a better diet seem a much more sensible (and economical) approach; and have multiple additional health benefits as well.

Before you go, I must just make it clear that it is very important to check with your doctor before trying any of the above supplements.

And if you want to read more about treating your depression naturally, then have a read of The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself From Chronic Unhappiness.

If you enjoyed this blog post you may also enjoy these related posts from the blog.

The Top 10 Best Herbal Sedatives
5 Natural Ways For Complete Calm & Relaxation
Gentle Herbs To Relieve Your Stress
The Powerful Health Benefits Of Ginseng & How It Can Relieve Your Stress
Miracle Herbs For Getting Rid Of Stress & Anxiety


  1. Now-a-days many people suffering from the problem of depression. Even though it can be solved by some English medicines, it may create some side effects. So it is better to use different herbs and supplements for getting good treatment for depression as mentioned above.

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