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Are Herbal Remedies for Depression a Suitable Replacement for Traditional Medication?

Updated on August 1, 2019
Dylan Buckley profile image

Dylan is a freelance writer specializing in the self-development and cryptocurrency investment industries who loves producing great content.

(Note: This is by no means intended to be taken as medical advice. This is simply my personal opinion and experience with certain “home remedies”.)

There are a lot of people out there who believe that depression is a disorder that can only be treated within the walls of a therapist’s office or with the proper dose of medication. They will often see therapists and pills as the magical solution for the problem rather than what they are: a tool. Make no mistake, the right therapist and some medications are necessary to help you cope with the disorder until you get back on your feet. However, the truth for those who have recurring depression is that a lot of the work happens outside of the office rather than in it.

Why?

Like with anything in adulthood, handling our depression is our responsibility. Therapists and medication can help provide the tools to get us back on track but it is up to us to make the lifestyle changes necessary to keep us on course, especially if we see another episode looming on the horizon. This D-I-Y realization and attitude will eventually lead all of us to discover natural remedies for depression, herbal pills that are supposed to work in place of antidepressants so that we can get ourselves on our feet without the help of pharmaceuticals.

If you have been curious about herbal remedies but are unsure about whether or not you should take them, here is my personal take on herbs for depression as well as some things you need to take into consideration before you try them out for yourself.

My Experience With Herbal Remedies

Herbal remedies have not always agreed with me. The first natural remedy that I chose to take, 5-HTP, is said to help boost serotonin levels. For me, it didn’t seem to work all that well and I ended up experiencing some of the side-effects such as nausea rather than any of the mood-boosting effects that were said to accompany the herb. I finished the bottle quickly and decided that this chemical wasn’t for me.

After a couple of years of managing without, I found myself dealing with another stronger bout of depression and decided to try an herb known as St. John’s Wort. St. John’s Wort is another herb that is well-known for its supposed mood-boosting benefits. I took the recommended daily amount and seemed to benefit slightly over time but wouldn’t say that I had significantly benefitted from the herb alone. As with the previous product, I decided to go through the whole bottle but didn’t find it necessary to try the herb out another time.

The third product that I decided to try ended up being a pill that featured a spectrum of all of the herbs and chemicals that are said to aid in relieving depression. I like to compare this pill to the act of using a shotgun to hit a dartboard. When you’re using ammo that covers a wide range, you are almost guaranteed to hit your target. This product has definitely been the most helpful and seems to work quite effectively. The pills are much larger than most but I only need to take two pills daily and I feel a significant mood boost. I can’t say for sure whether this a placebo or the pills themselves are doing the work but I would recommend them if you are considering using an herbal remedy to help combat depressive symptoms. Here is the product that I use to help battle my depression:

As I said above, however, there are many complex factors in depression treatment that need to be taken into consideration before you attempt to use an herbal remedy. Some of these factors include:

1. Your Lifestyle Choices

Trying to take herbal supplements as a way to ease your depression without doing any of the other work required is like jogging for 30-minutes and then eating fast food five times a day. You aren’t going to reap the benefits if you are not working on all aspects of your life. This means that along with your herbal supplements, you should be exercising, getting enough sleep, eating a proper diet, relieving stress, socializing, finding things to do that boost your mood, and following the many other recommended courses of action that are said to boost your mood. Much like a hammer won’t pound a nail in by itself, you can’t expect an herbal remedy to be a tool that works on its own.

2. Your Mindset and Depression Severity

Depressive episodes can vary in duration and severity and this is another factor that can impact the efficacy of your herbal supplement. If you are dealing with a depressive episode that is preventing you from going about your day and is making it near impossible to feel happiness, it is doubtful that an herbal supplement is going to be able to help you. If you feel like your depression is too much to cope with on your own, it is important that you seek help from a mental health professional immediately so that you can receive the course of treatment that will work best for you. (You should also always ask your doctor if it is okay for you to take certain herbal supplements on their own or along with your prescribed course of antidepressants.)

3. Whether or Not Your Chosen Herbs Actually Work

Many herbs have a reputation for boosting your mood but not all herbs are backed by the proper research. Even then, some research will vary and some herbs may have specific dosage requirements you must meet so that the herbs can benefit you. Human psychology and brain chemistry are very complex and not everything is going to work for everyone. Do not rely on or expect any herbal supplements to work for your case and approach each with caution.

I would not recommend any herbal supplements for anyone with severe depression or potentially conflicting medical conditions that could be worsened by certain chemicals but if you are someone who has mild depression and can often take care of their symptoms with the proper lifestyle changes, I don’t think that trying out herbal remedies could do any further harm. Before trying any herbal remedies, always speak with your doctor to receive the go-ahead and if you find your depression worsening or you start experiencing suicidal thoughts and ideas, make sure to reach out for help immediately. You are worth it!

Natural Remedies for Depression

Updated: My Favorite Supplements for Depression and Anxiety

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