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11 Natural Treatments For Depression

  • a Care2 favorite by Lissa Rankin
11 Natural Treatments For Depression

As an MD, Iíve watched too many of my colleagues yank out anti-depressant samples every time a patient starts to cry. So on behalf of physicians everywhere, let me apologize for our trigger-happy prescription-writing behavior. I donít mean to diminish the pain someone who is depressed might experience. But tears are healthy. Sadness doesnít always need treatment. And itís important to remember that the pain muscle and the joy muscle are the same. If you canít feel one, you wonít feel the other.

That said, clinical depression sucks, and if youíre someone who suffers from it, my heart goes out to you. Iím in no way intending to diss anti-depressants or suggest you ignore your doctorís advice. I know anti-depressants can be life-saving for people. But unless youíre suicidal or otherwise in dire need of urgent medication, before you dose up on side-effect laden pharmaceuticals, itís worth considering some natural treatments that might help lift your mood.

How To Treat Depression Naturally

1.† Consider why you might feel depressed. Sometimes depression is a symptom of something circumstantial in your life, rather than biochemical imbalances. Does your job require you to sell out your integrity every day? Have you been unable to admit that you need to end your marriage? Are you feeling spiritually disconnected or sexually restless? Are you suffering from creative blocks? Is your body failing you? Are you facing financial ruin? Be honest with yourself about what might be off-kilter in your life, and make an effort to get to the root of why you might be feeling depressed.

2.† Move your body. Exercise releases happy-making endorphins, which act like natural anti-depressants. Runnerís high, anyone?

3.† Never skip a meal. Keeping your blood sugar stable reduces mood swings.

4.† Eat a serotonin-enhancing diet. Many anti-depressants like Prozac act by inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin by receptors in the brain, thereby increasing serotonin levels. But you can increase your brainís serotonin levels by eating foods that boost your serotonin levels naturally.

Serotonin-enhancing foods include:

  • Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (such as wild salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, and anchovies, which are even higher in omega-3 fatty acids than other fish)
  • Healthy fats like coconut oil
  • Eat a high protein diet, especially proteins high in tryptophan, like free range turkey

5 Best Snacks to Boost Your Mood

5.† Avoid caffeine, which reduces serotonin levels. If you need an energy boost, supplement with L-Tyrosine (500 Ė 1000 mg).

6.† Expose yourself to sunlight, which can boost mood and increase Vitamin D levels. If you live somewhere that gets little sun, invest in a therapeutic light box.

7.† Try mood-enhancing supplements: (DISCLAIMER: Although you can get these supplements over the counter, I always recommend doing this under the care of a physician, since supplements can have side effects and risks and can interact with other medications.)

  • 5-HTP 50-300 mg up to three times/day — start at 50mg in the morning. Converts directly into serotonin. If you are taking too much, you will feel sleepy or have runny stools. Also usually helps with anxiety, although sometimes it can paradoxically cause anxiety. Must use with great caution if youíre taking an anti-depressant.
  • St. Johnís Wort 300mg three times/day. If you donít feel better within a week, slowly increase your dose to a max of 600mg three times/day. May decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills.
  • SAMe 200mg on an empty stomach twice/day. Increase your dose every two weeks to a maximum dose of 600mg twice daily. This can be a very effective antidepressant, but it can also be expensive. Side effects at higher doses include GI upset, nausea, agitation, and insomnia.
  • L-Theanine 100-600mg daily. Reduce if you feel sleepy. Found in green tea.
  • Fish oil (DHA/EPA) 1-3 g/day with food.

8. Meditate or try guided imagery. Meditationís effects on mood are well documented. Settling your mind can lift your mood, in addition to a whole host of other health benefits.

9. Get your hormones balanced. If your thyroid, adrenal or sex hormones are out of whack, your mood can get all wonky. See a good integrative medicine doctor and ask them to order and interpret the following tests:

  • Thyroid gland tests – TSH, free T4, free T3, total T3, thyroid antibodies
  • Adrenal gland tests – cortisol, DHEA-S, pregnenolone
  • Sex hormone tests – estradiol, progesterone, free and total testosterone

10. Make efforts to bolster your mental health by being more authentic in all aspects of your life. Too often, we walk around wearing masks, pretending to be something weíre not. We fake it at the schoolyard, in the boardroom, in the bedroom, at church — and then we wonder why we wind up depressed.†Practice letting your authentic freak flag fly and watch how your mood lifts.

11. Talk it out. See a therapist, psychiatrist, or life coach and express how you feel. Sometimes just finding someone you trust who will help you work through your feelings can make all the difference in the world.

If all else fails and you need anti-depressants, donít beat yourself up. Sometimes you can do everything right, and if your imbalance is biochemical, you may need the drugs. But donít forget to nurture the rest of you too. Depression, like most physical and mental illnesses, is multifactorial and requires a global investigation of your whole health — not just your mind and body, but your relationships, your work, your financial picture, how you express yourself creatively, how you satisfy yourself sexually, your environment, and whether youíre letting your Inner Pilot Light (aka authentic self) shine.

Unsure whether you’re really depressed or just in need of a vitality boost? Read this!

4 Yoga Poses to Improve Your Mood
9 Physical Signs of Depression
7 Flower Remedies for Depression

Read more: Alternative Therapies, Depression, Eating for Health, Exercises, Food, General Health, Guidance, Health, Inspiration, Mental Wellness, Self-Help, Spirit, Yoga, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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Lissa Rankin

Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician, founder of the†Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and other health care providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of†Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself.† She is on a grassroots mission to heal health care, while empowering you to heal yourself.† Lissa blogs at† and also created two online communities -† and† She is also the author of two other books, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. Lissa lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and daughter.


+ add your own
12:57PM PDT on Oct 19, 2014


11:53AM PDT on Oct 19, 2014

All useful stuff.

3:29PM PDT on Oct 18, 2014


1:18PM PDT on Oct 17, 2014

Afterthought: I've started to feel depressed at my job recently, feeling magnificently hollow at a pay-the-bills job.
A solution I'm taking up that's REALLY helping is volunteer work in what you're TRULY passionate about (in my case, politics).
For all you know, you might work so diligently, so hard, and so well at it- because you love it so much- that you might find paid work in it, and it can your new career! Jackpot, huh? :)

1:13PM PDT on Oct 17, 2014

Live long and prosper

9:26AM PDT on Oct 15, 2014

This is a great article and it makes sense. It's important to remember, though, that some depression doesn't yield to these tips and that medication is a valid option.

5:28AM PDT on Oct 14, 2014

thanks for posting!

1:52AM PDT on Oct 13, 2014

thank you for the good article

8:54AM PDT on Oct 12, 2014

I will try these , thanks for sharing!

5:19AM PDT on Oct 12, 2014

Another way to reduce depression and increase serotonin production is to stop using the brain incorrectly. The brain works best when being aware of tasks. These two phenomena, being aware and targeting awareness on a task (and task can mean walking, and sitting, as well as dicing the onions for supper or doing yoga) reduce activity in the part of the brain preoccupied with "me" thinking (medial prefrontal cortex).

"Me" thinking is thinking about what you like, dislike, wish for, thinking about your past or your future in very personal way. It's called self-referencing. Self-referencing inhibits the part of he brain that produces and sends out serotonin formation. So all the serotonin reuptake inhibitors in the world won't increase serotonin levels if there is little serotonin produced in the first place.

Being aware of tasks reduces self-referencing because the brain can only do one thing at a time. Activity in one part of the brain reduces activity in the other (as far as task or self-referencing are concerned).

This task awareness is nothing more than mindfulness, and is a fundamental part of yogi, tai chi, carefully painting small objects, threading a needle etc. That is why many people feel happy when they do certain activities - they are loosing themselves in their favorite activity by maximaly applying task awareness. By doing so, then increase activity in the dorsolateral PFC, thereby inhibiting the medial PFC, increasing serotonin production, which makes t

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