Home Remedies for Depression


©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Millions of Americans report suffering from depression every year.

There are many times in the course of life that you may feel overwhelmed and distraught. If you didn't feel like singing the blues now and again you wouldn't be human. It's actually very healthy to get down from time to time. It's when that down-in-the-dumps feeling begins to stick around longer than a couple of weeks that you might be suffering from a more serious condition, such as clinical depression.

If you are experiencing a bout of depression, don't feel alone. Mental health experts say at least 30 million people deal with mild depression every year, and 18.8 million Americans are diagnosed with a more serious form of depression annually. Despite the wide array of medications for depression, there are also some simple home remedies that you can try to restore your balance. But, before we get to the home remedies for depression, let's learn a little bit more about the condition.

Major or Minor?

Though it'd be nice to go through life pretending like you're in a Brady Bunch episode, it's not realistic. There are going to be times when life throws you a few curveballs. Perhaps you suddenly lose a parent or your spouse is diagnosed with a major illness. Feeling depressed during tough times is normal. Mild depression is something everyone encounters. But sometimes stressful situations can cause more than a few days of sadness.

If your hopeless feelings begin to become more intense and last more than a couple of weeks, you could be experiencing clinical depression. Major depression, one form of clinical depression, may only happen once in your lifetime, or it may come back several times. Major depression usually lasts weeks or months and is disabling. It can cause you to lose interest in work, sleep, eating, or going out to dinner with a friend. A less severe form of clinical depression is dysthymia. Dysthymia isn't as emotionally crippling as major depression. With dysthymia you go about your life, attending soccer games and birthday parties, but it feels as though there's a gray cloud hanging over your life. Dysthymia is a chronic condition. And people with dysthymia may suffer bouts of major depression throughout their lives.

Major depression is a serious and dangerous disease, and dysthymia can spoil your life over time. The good news is that there are effective modern treatments for depression, including medications that have fewer side effects than those used just a few years ago. If depression persists or makes you feel as if life is not worth living, see a doctor promptly.

Causes of Depression

Researchers have discovered that depression can run in the family. That doesn't mean that you'll definitely suffer bouts of depression if your mother did. But if you encounter a stressful situation, such as losing your job, you may be more likely to slip into a major depression than someone who doesn't have a genetic link to the condition.

Physiologically, most types of depression are related to a malfunction in neurotransmitters in the brain. Researchers have discovered that if there is a glitch in the way neurotransmitters communicate, you can experience problems with mood, sleeping, and eating. Also, people who are more susceptible to depression physiologically tend to overreact to stress.

Other causes of depression include:

  • Major stresses, such as going through a serious illness or losing someone close to you.
  • Hormonal changes. As hormones fluctuate -- after having a baby, before and during menstruation, and during menopause -- women tend to suffer more depression.
  • Medications. Check with your doctor if you've recently started a new medication and are feeling symptoms of depression.

For more information on treating and understanding depression, try the following links:

  • To see all of our home remedies and the conditions they treat, go to our main Home Remedies page.
  • Depression can quickly spiral into a serious and dangerous problem. While severe cases of depression need a doctor's attention, mild depression can be treated with herbs available at your local health-food store. Learn more in Herbal Remedies for Depression.
  • You can learn more about the causes and treatments of depression in How Depression Works.
  • To learn more about stress and how it can contribute to depression, read How Stress Works.
  • One of the major factors that can cause depression is anxiety. Learn how to alleviate this condition in Home Remedies for Anxiety.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Home Remedy Treatments for Depression

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Aside from helping you wake up in the morning, coffee may also help improve your mood.

While we all have "down days," that does not mean we should resign ourselves to being in a bad mood. The home remedies for depression on this page can help restore your smile.

Home Remedies From the Cupboard

Brazil nuts. Selenium, a trace mineral found abundantly in Brazil nuts (100 mcg in one nut), can help ease depression. Studies have shown that people who had low levels of selenium tended to be more anxious, depressed, and tired. Once they ate foods containing selenium, however, they felt better. Other selenium-rich foods are tuna, swordfish, oysters, and sunflower seeds.

Coffee. If you're a regular morning coffee drinker, you know what life can be like if you don't have your morning cup. You get a headache, you're cranky, and you feel bad. Well, researchers are finding that caffeine can indeed alter your mood. It makes you less irritable and helps you feel better. Experts do think that having a cup or two of coffee a day may indeed help ease mild depression. But don't go overboard. Downing too much caffeine can make you jittery and may even make you more anxious.

Garlic. German researchers studying garlic's effect on cholesterol discovered that participants being treated with garlic experience an elevation in mood. So try a little garlic therapy if you're feeling down.

Home Remedies From the Refrigerator

Chicken. Low levels of vitamin B6 may be an instigator of depression, especially in women on birth control pills. Vitamin B6 is necessary for the body to make serotonin, a neurotransmitter. The RDA for vitamin B6 is 1.3 mg for men and women up to age 50; after age 50 the amount increases to 1.7 mg. There are 0.5 mg of vitamin B6 in 3 ounces of chicken.

Spinach. Studies are finding that a folic acid deficiency is a major cause of depression. Scientists began to suspect a link between this B vitamin and the brain when they discovered that people diagnosed with depression have lower levels of folic acid than the general population. It seems that folic acid deficiency causes serotonin levels to fall, which can lead to feelings of depression. Ironically enough, folic acid deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in women. But the good news is you only need about 200 mcg a day to meet your folic acid needs. That adds up to about 3/4 cup of cooked spinach.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids. The brain is one of the richest sources of fatty acids in the body. And research is finding that depressed people have lower levels of omega-3 fatty acids. This polyunsaturated fat is found mostly in fatty fish, such as salmon, cod, pollock, and flounder. It's also abundant in flaxseed and soy products. Researchers believe that getting enough omega-3 fatty acids is essential to ensure the brain is at its healthiest. And a healthy brain is less likely to become seriously depressed.

Do Remember

  • If you're dealing with mild depression, there are some practical things you can do to lift your mood.
  • Get some rest and relaxation. Be sure you are getting plenty of sleep and are taking time to stop and smell the flowers.
  • Junk the junk food. Sure, that sugar high feels good, but when you go through detox a couple of hours after that cupcake, you can feel terrible. Try skipping the sugary stuff and eating something more nutritious.
  • Abstain from alcohol. Alcohol is known to aggravate a depressed mood.
  • Energize with exercise. Runner's high is caused by an increase in endorphins--the feel-good brain chemicals. But you don't have to run a marathon to get the same mood-lifting feeling. Try taking a walk around the block or walking the dog for 10 or 15 minutes. You'll feel good the rest of the day.
  • Focus on friends and family. Leaning on others is one of the healthiest things you can do to get through a tough time in your life.
  • Learn to laugh. Laughing actually triggers the same endorphins that are affected by exercise. Read a little Dilbert, watch your favorite Three Stooges movie, and if possible, try to find humor in your situation.
  • Think happy thoughts. A recent study found that people who learn to have a more optimistic attitude are less likely to become depressed--even if they were naturally pessimists. Changing the way you perceive life can have a dramatic affect on your mental health.

In addition to these remedies found in your own home, many people find St. John's wort, an herb, to be an effective treatment for mild-to-moderate depression. Learn more on the next page. For more information on treating and understanding depression, try the following links:

  • To see all of our home remedies and the conditions they treat, go to our main Home Remedies page.
  • Depression can quickly spiral into a serious and dangerous problem. While severe cases of depression need a doctor's attention, mild depression can be treated with herbs available at your local health-food store. Learn more in Herbal Remedies for Depression.
  • You can learn more about the causes and treatments of depression in How Depression Works.
  • To learn more about stress and how it can contribute to depression, read How Stress Works.
  • One of the major factors that can cause depression is anxiety. Learn how to alleviate this condition in Home Remedies for Anxiety.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Using St. John's Wort for Depression

St. John's wort has been a popular drug in Europe for years. In Germany, where its use is covered by health insurance as a prescription drug, millions of people take preparations containing St. John's wort, and many of them use St. John's wort to treat depression.

How St. John's Wort Works for Depression

Among St. John's wort's chemical constituents are tannins, flavonoids, xanthones, terpenes, phloroglucinol derivatives, and carotenoids. Hypericin and hyperforin, two principal components, are reportedly important for alleviating depression, although other constituents may play a role as well. But how St. John's wort works remains unclear.

Early research in test tubes indicated that St. John's wort functions much like an MAO inhibitor. As a result, doctors advised patients who consumed the herb to shy away from tyramine-rich foods and medications. However, because no other evidence supports the MAO theory, and because no MAO inhibitor-like side effects have been seen with St. John's wort, it is not necessary to avoid foods or medications that contain tyramine when taking this herb.

Newer studies indicate that St. John's wort functions more like an atypical antidepressant, blocking re-uptake of serotonin and serotonin receptors. And some evidence suggests St. John's wort may work by regulating compounds secreted by white blood cells that communicate with the brain about mood -- think about how tired you feel when you have an infection and you can see the connection.

In whatever way St. John's wort carries out its biological functions, evidence is sound that the herb is effective in relieving mild to moderate symptoms of depression.

Evidence of St. John's Wort's Effectiveness

There have been more than 35 randomized, double-blind studies comparing St. John's wort, or Hypericum, with a placebo or antidepressant drugs. In most of those studies, researchers noted a statistically significant improvement among patients who took Hypericum.

So many studies have been done that it is necessary to consider them in groups to get a sense of whether St. John's wort is effective. Mathematically grouping and comparing studies in this way, as if one gigantic study had been done, is known as a meta-analysis.

Several meta-analyses on St. John's wort have been published. The most recent ones conclude that although there are some studies that do not agree, most studies show St. John's wort is effective for people with mild-to-moderate depression (compared to placebo, or dummy pill), and St. John's wort is far less likely to cause adverse effects than antidepressant drugs.

One of the most impressive studies to date involved 332 men and women with mild-to-moderate depression and was completed in Germany in 2006. Taking either 600 milligrams or 1,200 milligrams of a standardized extract of St. John's wort led to significantly better improvement in depression symptoms than taking placebo, and the two doses were similar to each other in efficacy after six weeks.

How Does St. John's Wort Compare?

There have been at least 14 randomized double-blind studies -- and scores of less-structured experiments -- comparing Hypericum with tricyclic antidepressants and SSRI drugs in patients suffering mild-to-moderate depression. In general, Hypericum has produced similar antidepressant effects that appear to grow stronger with length of treatment and have few adverse side effects.

Those findings prompted the British Medical Journal to write: "St John's wort is a promising treatment for depression. Hypericum extracts were significantly superior to placebos, and similarly effective as standard antidepressants. This herb may offer an advantage in terms of relative safety and tolerability, which might improve patient compliance."

At the Psychiatric Clinic in Darmstadt, Germany, 135 patients aged 18 to 75 were given either Hypericum extract or imipramine (Tofranil) three times a day for six weeks. The patients then were tested for depression with the Hamilton Depression Scale (HAM-D, a measurement of the severity of depression) and the Clinical Global Impressions Scale (CGI).

The mean HAM-D score fell from 20.2 to 8.8 in the Hypericum-treated group and from 19.4 to 10.7 in the imipramine-treated group. The CGI score, which measures therapeutic effectiveness, rose from 1.3 to 3.1 in the Hypericum group and from 1.2 to 2.7 in the group of subjects taking imipramine.

Adverse side effects were reported by eight patients on Hypericum and 11 patients on imipramine. But the reactions noted by Hypericum takers were less severe than those reported by imipramine patients.

Another randomized double-blind study compared Hypericum with amitriptyline (Elavil), given three times a day for six weeks to 80 patients with mild to moderate depression. The HAM-D score fell from 15.82 to 6.34 in the Hypericum group and from 15.26 to 6.86 in the amitriptyline group. There were twice as many complaints about adverse effects in the amitriptyline group -- 58 percent compared to 24 percent among Hypericum takers.

Yet another study that was performed during 2002 and 2003 compared the effectiveness of St. John's wort with the SSRI drug citalopram (Celexa) and placebo. The study followed 388 patients at several locations for six weeks. St. John's wort and citalopram both reduced the HAM-D scores by 55 percent by the end of the trial, showing nearly equal efficacy. This was superior to the 40-percent improvement reported by the placebo group. More than 50 percent of the citalopram group reported adverse effects, compared to 30 percent in the placebo group and just 17 percent in the St. John's wort group.

For important information on St. John's wort's potential side effects, continue to the next page.

For more information on treating and understanding depression, try the following links:

  • To see all of our home remedies and the conditions they treat, go to our main Home Remedies page.
  • Depression can quickly spiral into a serious and dangerous problem. While severe cases of depression need a doctor's attention, mild depression can be treated with herbs available at your local health-food store. Learn more in Herbal Remedies for Depression.
  • You can learn more about the causes and treatments of depression in How Depression Works.
  • To learn more about stress and how it can contribute to depression, read How Stress Works.
  • One of the major factors that can cause depression is anxiety. Learn how to alleviate this condition in Home Remedies for Anxiety.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

St. John's Wort Side Effects

It's true that St. John's wort doesn't work for everyone. Debilitating depression and bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) do not respond well to the herb. And, although most people who take St. John's wort for depression report no adverse reactions, some patients do develop side effects.

The side effects of St. John's wort can include photosensitivity (increased sensitivity of the skin to sunlight), fatigue, gastrointestinal discomfort, anxiety, dizziness, skin rashes and itching, allergy, and heart palpitations. St. John's wort side effects, however, appear to be mild and rare.

What is unclear, however, is the long-term safety of St. John's wort. No formal studies have evaluated the use of St. John's wort for longer than eight weeks. In Germany, where many people have used the standardized extract, there have been no reports of fatal reactions to the extract and an extremely low incidence of side effects, which are generally quite mild. That doesn't mean that side effects from long-term use won't show up years down the road, of course.

Nonetheless, a growing number of clinicians conclude that, for most patients, St. John's wort is a safe and effective short-term treatment for mild to moderate depression.

Bear in mind, however, that depression is a serious condition, and left untreated, it can be extremely destructive mentally, physically, and socially. It's important to consult a medical professional if you suspect you have depression, whether or not you are considering taking St. John's wort.

A professional can determine if your depression is a result of a physical problem, such as a thyroid hormone imbalance, or a side effect of a medication you take, in which case the depression may be better remedied by treating the underlying disorder or adjusting the medication. A medical professional can also help you determine what type of help is best for your particular situation.

If you have already been diagnosed with depression and are taking a pharmaceutical antidepressant, do not suddenly stop taking it or begin taking St. John's wort along with it. Discuss with your health-care practitioner the possibility of trying St. John's wort; if your practitioner approves, you will likely be weaned off of the pharmaceutical gradually to prevent any major reactions.

By following the home remedies discussed in this article, or by using St. John's wort, you may be able to improve your mood without resorting to pharmaceuticals. However, depression is a serious illness and you should always consult your doctor if you feel you could be descending into severe depression.

For more information on treating and understanding depression, try the following links:

  • To see all of our home remedies and the conditions they treat, go to our main Home Remedies page.
  • Depression can quickly spiral into a serious and dangerous problem. While severe cases of depression need a doctor's attention, mild depression can be treated with herbs available at your local health-food store. Learn more in Herbal Remedies for Depression.
  • You can learn more about the causes and treatments of depression in How Depression Works.
  • To learn more about stress and how it can contribute to depression, read How Stress Works.
  • One of the major factors that can cause depression is anxiety. Learn how to alleviate this condition in Home Remedies for Anxiety.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:Timothy Gower is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in many publications, including Reader's Digest, Prevention, Men's Health, Better Homes and Gardens, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times. The author of four books, Gower is also a contributing editor for Health magazine.

Alice Lesch Kelly is a health writer based in Boston. Her work has been published in magazines such as Shape, Fit Pregnancy, Woman's Day, Reader's Digest, Eating Well, and Health. She is the co-author of three books on women's health.

Linnea Lundgren has more than 12 years experience researching, writing, and editing for newspapers and magazines. She is the author of four books, including Living Well With Allergies.

Michele Price Mann is a freelance writer who has written for such publications as Weight Watchers and Southern Living magazines. Formerly assistant health and fitness editor at Cooking Light magazine, her professional passion is learning and writing about health.

ABOUT THE CONSULTANTS:

Ivan Oransky, M.D., is the deputy editor of The Scientist. He is author or co-author of four books, including The Common Symptom Answer Guide, and has written for publications including the Boston Globe, The Lancet, and USA Today. He holds appointments as a clinical assistant professor of medicine and as adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.

David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.