Updated: Oct 31, 2019

The Best Natural Supplements for Anxiety & Depression

By - Reviewed by CHD Team

Updated: Oct 31, 2019

Learn how natural supplements may help reduce feelings of anxiety, stress and promote overall well-being.
depression
Find the right supplement to help your anxiety. Shutterstock Images

Natural Supplements for Anxiety - Things to Consider

These are natural substances that research has found can lower feelings of depression and increase positive mood. Depression is a mental illness which includes symptoms like sadness and worthlessness, low energy, exhaustion, anxiety, thoughts of suicide, and agitation. These symptoms must exist for at least two weeks for it to be classified as clinical depression.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) affects around 6.8 million adults.

For people who do not want to take prescription anti-depressant medication or who only have mild depression[1], there are some very effective natural alternatives. These include Vitamins, Amino Acids, Fats, and other substances.

You should always check with your doctor before adding supplements to your routine.

Certain foods and a general program of nutrition can be geared towards reducing feelings of depression and increasing positive mood. In this way, nutrition can act as a type of supplement. Of course, it's often the case that depression itself could stem from a nutritional deficiency of a substance like Vitamin D or Chromium. That's all the more reason to try some of these natural supplements[2].

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Latest Supplements for Anxiety

What are the Best Supplements for Anxiety and Depression?

There are aspects of your nutritional health that influence mood, which means you can modify your eating habits to increase positive mood. Uneven blood sugar levels are often implicated in mood difficulties, be they too high or too low. Working to keep your blood sugar even will help improve your mood. Don't overdo the carbohydrates and stay away from refined sugar.

Folic acid is another substance that plays a role in depression and mood difficulties in general. Low levels of folic acid can have an impact on mood, as can elevated levels of the amino acid homocysteine. Taking B12 Vitamins can be very effective in elevating positive mood (source).

A 2017 study found that people who had lower blood levels of vitamin B-12 were more likely to have depression or anxiety.

Taking in foods that contain Amino Acids has a positive effect on mood, because many of these amino acids lead to the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that increases good mood (source). Amino acids are found in foods that have elevated levels of protein, like eggs, meat, beans, and fish.

Research has shown that eating foods that contain the mineral chromium[3] has a positive effect on people with depression. One of chromium's main roles is to regulate blood sugar. Foods rich in chromium include broccoli, green beans, potatoes, chicken, beef, dairy products, whole grain, bananas, and apples.

Other Herbs and Supplements for Depression

Research has suggested that various supplements — including vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, and herbal remedies — may help relieve the symptoms of anxiety.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: There's some evidence that this fatty acid is an effective treatment for depression, but the results are inconclusive[4]. You can get this substance naturally by eating walnuts, flaxseed or oil, and cold-water fish. In a 2015 systematic review, researchers concluded that omega-3 fatty acid supplements are not useful across the board as a depression treatment.
  • St John's Wort: This substance is an effective supplement to treat depression[5]. However, it interacts with quite a number of medications, rendering them much less effective. It's best to take this if you aren't taking other medications – particularly anti-depressants. A 2016 systematic review found that St. John's wort was more effective than a placebo for treating mild to moderate depression.
  • 5-HTP: This brain chemical initiates the production of serotonin, another brain chemical that is responsible for mood. Taking more of this chemical will initiate the production of additional serotonin, which can improve mood. 5-HTP has undergone a number of animal studies, and some, such as this review from 2016, cite its potential as an antidepressant therapy. However, evidence of its effects in human subjects is limited.
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA): This hormone exists naturally in your body already, and it has been associated with depression (source). At a high dose, there are few side effects reported.
  • Saffron: It may increase positive mood, but it should be taken in low doses. At high doses, there are significant side effects. Some studies cite using saffron as a safe and effective measure for controlling the symptoms of depression, such as this non-systematic review from 2018.

Although the research on supplements for anxiety is promising, be sure to check you're your doctor before adding anything new to your treatment regimen.

What are the Real Risks of Antidepressants?

medication

Antidepressants are medications that can help relieve symptoms of depression. Shutterstock Images

In terms of prescription anti-depressants, evidence shows that they are addictive[6]. In a study that took place in New Zealand, researchers concluded that a considerable number of the 1800 participants felt that they were addicted to their anti-depressants.

At least half of the participants said that they had experienced withdrawal symptoms in the past when going off their anti-depressant medication. Regular use leads to dependence, and dependence can turn to addiction.

In contrast, none of the non-prescription anti-depressant supplements have any addictive properties. Not to say that they don't have their own side effects, but dependence and addiction aren't on the list.

Do Antidepressants Change Your Personality?

Research shows that anti-depressants can change your personality, in two very specific ways. They lower levels of neuroticism, which is linked with a very negative pattern of thinking. They also increase levels of extroversion, meaning the user becomes more positive, friendlier, and more open. These personality characteristics are associated with lower levels of depression.

How Long Should You be on Supplements?

It's essential that you speak to your family physician before you take any antidepressants, supplements or vitamins, to make sure that they don't interact with any of your prescription medications. At that point, you should discuss the length of time to take the supplement. There's no time limit for any of these medications, so follow your physician's instructions.

Your doctor may also be able to recommend other therapies and lifestyle changes to help manage your symptoms.

The bottom line

Clearly, supplements are effective in reducing levels of depression. However, prescription depression medication tends to be quite addictive, while natural supplements have no addictive properties whatsoever. There are several natural substances which are very effective in lowering levels of depression and increasing positive mood, including Saffron, 5-HTP, and St. John's Wort. These may be viable alternatives to prescription medications, especially if you're experiencing mild depression.

Note: People are advised not to rely on herbs or supplements as a standalone line of treatment.

Make sure that you discuss this possibility with your doctor before starting any regimen and get his/her approval. Any change to your health regimen should be approved by your doctor. Herbal and natural supplements may work well for some people. It's important to note that taking other medications at the same time as taking an antidepressants or supplements is not recommended at all. In fact, it can be harmful to your health.

References

[1] Depression | Food for the Brain and the Brain Bio Centre clinic https://www.foodforthebrain.org/nutrition-solutions/depression/about-depression.aspx
[2] Nutr J. 2010; 9: 42. Published online 2010 Oct 7. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-9-42. PMCID: PMC2959081. PMID: 20929532. Nutritional and herbal supplements for anxiety and anxiety-related disorders: systematic review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2959081/
[3] Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Chromium — Health Professional Fact Sheet https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Chromium-HealthProfessional/
[4] Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Depression: Scientific Evidence and Biological Mechanisms | Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2014/313570/
[5] Treatment of Major Depression With St. John's Wort (Hypericum) - Full Text View - ClinicalTrials.gov https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00005013
[6] New research on antidepressant addiction and withdrawal | by Anne Beston , University of Auckland https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-06-antidepressant-addiction.html

**This is a subjective assessment based on the strength of the available informations and our estimation of efficacy.

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