Natural Antidepressants - Dealing with depression the natural way

Natural Treatments:
Sceletium tortuosum
St John's Wort
5-HTP
Gingko Biloba

natural depression alternatives

Depression is a state of mind which is characterized by a negative sense of inadequacy and a visual lack of activity. It is a mental state in which the effecting person experiences sad feelings of gloom and downturn in mood, which may be relatively transitory and may be due to something complex. The common behaviour includes feelings of sadness, despair, low self-esteem, low self-reproach and discouragement.

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Anxiety is a characteristic feature of most people. In it's 'normal' form, it helps with vigilance, learning and general performance. Anxiety is useful. However, in excess it starts to work against us.

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Depression has nothing to do with weakness and there does not seem to be any particular type of person who is more prone to the disorder. The word depression is used to cover a very wide range of problems, from short periods of low mood to a lifetime of mind-numbing inability to function.

healing depression

Depression can affect anyone

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Many people with depression also experience some degree of anxiety - anxiety that goes beyond the typical tension we experience when we face life's challenges. For people with an anxiety disorder, the overwhelming worry and fear is constant - with obsessive thoughts, feelings of panic, trouble sleeping, heart palpitations, cold or sweaty hands.

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The depressed person often experiences a lot of anxiety. This can lead to them having panic attacks. Having panic attacks can itself be a depressing thing. Any lack of control within our lives can contribute to depression.

natural alternative for depression

Welcome to Natural Antidepressants.org

There are many safe, natural and benign ways to directly and effectively deal with depression. On this site we will discuss the key herbal and nutritional substances that have proved effective in helping people like you feel good again.

Although we intend to grow this site to include all the key resources, we are starting now to provide some basic information on what we consider the herbal substances available today. These are the rare Southern African plant called Sceletium and St John's Wort.

Natural treatments for depression:
The herbal treatment of depression has fewer side effects and they show promise for the long-term treatment of light and moderate depression. Some herbal treatments include:

Alternative treatments for depression:
There are a host of natural treatment that can be used to alleviate depression. These include:

  • Exercise
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Aromatherapy
  • Diet control

Some of the natural alternatives for depression are listed below:


Sceletium tortuosum (Sceletium, Kanna, Kougoed)
-- Antidepressant and Mood Enhancer --

History and Traditional Use:
Sceletium tortuosum is a rare succulent from the Mesembryanthemaceae family and is distributed in certain semi-desert areas of Southern Africa. It was (and still is) highly regarded and sought after by both the Khoikhoi and the San (bushmen) people who have used this plant as a mood enhancer since prehistoric times. It has also been used as an appetite suppressant and mental and physical endurance enhancer by shepherds and hunters walking long distances in arid areas. Sceletium elevates mood and decreases anxiety, stress and tension, and functions as a model anxiolytic, as well as being a very effective anti-depressant. Sceletium is also known to reduce addictive cravings particularly with regard to nicotine and also lessens the withdrawal effects of alcohol. Due to its ability to stimulate feelings of empathy it has also been used with success in couple and family therapy.

Sceletium has a unique ability to bring about emotional balance and simultaneously cause both relaxation and stimulation of a positive mood. Sceletium has been used as a natural supplement for:

  • low mood, including grey weather syndrome,
  • anxiety states, including social phobia,
  • irritability in menopause,
  • improvement in libido, when lack of libido is from anxiety or low mood, and
  • post-traumatic stress disorder.

Contraindications and Side-Effects:
Although there have been no confirmed reports of drug interactions, because of the neuro-receptor activities of Sceletium tortuosum there are theoretical interactions with other psychiatric medications and cardiac drugs. People taking any psychiatric drug (including all anti-anxiety drugs, sedatives, hypnotics, anti-depressants and anti-psychotics and so-called designer or recreational drugs) or any cardiac medications, are advised not to take Sceletium-containing products. Do not use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.


St John's Wort (Hypericum)

St John's Wort is today most widely known as a herbal treatment for depression. In some countries, such as Germany, it is commonly prescribed for mild depression, especially in children, adolescents, and where cost is a concern. Standardized extracts are generally available over the counter. Extracts are usually in tablet or capsule form, and also in teabags and tinctures.

St. John's Wort has been clinically reported to prove successful in relieving depression and anxiety with fewer side effects than prescription drugs. What research data exists supports a noticeable effect in many cases of light and medium depression. As psychiatric medication, it is usually taken as pills, or as tea. Other studies, including a major National Institutes of Health (NIH) study that focused on moderate to severe depression, have shown no improvements. Another meta-analysis, with stricter inclusion criteria than early studies, found that Hypericum was more efficacious than placebo; and as efficacious as tricyclic antidepressants, with, once again, fewer adverse drug reactions.

There are some trials that show effectiveness of St. John's wort, beyond a placebo effect, on treating different types of depression. A 2006 study involving 150 patients with minor depressive symptoms or dysthymia found that St John's wort has a clinically significant effect in patients with minor depression, but not those suffering from dysthymia. It was concluded that St John's wort can be effective in the treatment of people with minor depression with a Hamilton Depression Scale for Depression (HAM-D) score of up to 17. The British Medical Journal has recommended that the results of the randomized controlled trials of St John's Wort should be interpreted with caution, as many did not use standardised preparations or homogenous populations, and doses of antidepressants varied. A major review of the efficacy of St. John's Wort cautioned that the pharmaceutical quality of various preparations on the market may vary considerably.

Hyperforin is the constituent of St. John's Wort that is thought to be responsible for its antidepressant effects. Other biologically active constituents present, for example, flavonoids and tannins, may also be involved. Hyperforin has been shown to inhibit the uptake of 5-HT(serotonin), dopamine, noradrenaline, GABA and glutamate. Hyperforin is also thought to be responsible for the induction of the cytochrome P450 enzymes CYP3A4 and CYP2C9 by binding to the Pregnane X Receptor (PXR).

St John's wort used alone refers to the species Hypericum perforatum, also known as Tipton's Weed or Klamath weed, but, with qualifiers, is used to refer to any species of the genus Hypericum. Therefore, H. perforatum is sometimes called Common St John's wort to differentiate it. The species of Hypericum have been placed by some in the family Hypericaceae, but more recently have been included in the Clusiaceae.

Cautions
St John's wort is generally well tolerated, with an adverse effect profile similar to placebo. The most common adverse effects reported are gastrointestinal symptoms, dizziness, confusion, tiredness and sedation. St John's wort may rarely cause photosensitivity. This can lead to visual sensitivity to light and to sunburns in situations that would not normally cause them. Related to this, researchers showed in laboratory experiments that the drug reacts with light, both visible and ultraviolet, to produce free radicals. St John's wort has been known to instigate mania in bipolar patients and for these people it should be used with caution, just as with any anti-depressant. Also, it is important to note that St John's Wort interacts with many drugs, so if a person is taking any other medications, they should talk with a doctor or pharmacist to see if it may interact.

History
The first recorded use of Hypericum for medicinal purposes dates back to ancient Greece, and it has been used ever since. Hypericum was also used by Native Americans internally as an abortifacient and externally as an anti-inflammatory, astringent, and antiseptic. Its use as a herbal tea has long been enjoyed. The flowers and stems of St John's wort have also been used to produce red and yellow dyes.


5-HTP

5-HTP is an endogenous, intermediate Amino Acid formed from Tryptophan. Exogenous 5-Hydroxytryptophan is manufactured as a supplement as a means of bypassing the first step in the production of endogenous Serotonin (the brain neurotransmitter linked with pleasure and fulfilment).

5HTP is the direct precursor to serotonin, alleviating the harmful effects of worry and stress. Stress causes more serotonin to be released into the body, and the longer the period of stress the greater the danger of serotonin depletion. Low serotonin levels are associated with irritability, aggression, impatience and anxiety, and significantly decreased levels in serotonin have been found in suicidal patients.

Some patients that fail to respond to standard antidepressant drugs find relief in 5-HTP. The benefits of 5-HTP are very similar to those of L-Tryptophan, such as the assistance of sleep and alleviation of age related mental depression, as well as alcohol withdrawal. Unlike other antidepressants, such as L-Tryptophan which has other roles throughout the body, 5HTP affects the brain only.


Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba is one of the oldest living tree species and its leaves are among the most extensively studied botanicals in use today. Unlike many other medicinal herbs, ginkgo leaves are not frequently used in their crude state, but rather, in the form of a concentrated, standardized ginkgo biloba extract.

Ginkgo is widely used in Europe for treating dementia. It use is primarily due to its ability to improve blood flow to the brain and because of its antioxidant properties. The evidence that ginkgo may improve thinking, learning, and memory in people with Alzheimer's disease (AD) has been highly promising. Clinical studies suggest that ginkgo may provide the following benefits for people with AD:

  • Improvement in thinking, learning, and memory (cognitive function)
  • Improvement in activities of daily living
  • Improvement in social behavior
  • Fewer feelings of depression

A clinical study found that a standardized ginkgo extract may reduce the side effects of menopause as well as risk factors for osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. Women are becoming more reluctant to use pharmaceutical hormone replacement therapy (HRT) due to its undesirable side effects, such as irregular bleeding and an increased risk of breast cancer. Several human studies have reported that a standardized ginkgo extract has estrogenic activity and might be suitable as an alternative to HRT.

A standardized ginkgo extract was reported to significantly improve functional measures (such as coordination, energy level, strength, mental performance, mood, and sensation) in 22 individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS).

Cautions
Antidepressant medications - Taking ginkgo along with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRIs) antidepressants [including fluoxetin (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), and escitalopram (Lexapro)] may cause serotonin syndrome. This condition is characterized by rigidity, tachycardia (fast heart rate), hyperthermia (high body temperature), restlessness, and diaphoresis (sweating). Ginkgo may enhance the effects (both good and bad) of antidepressant medications known as MAOIs, such as phenelzine (Nardil).