Depression is North America's most common psychological complaint, affecting over 30 million Americans, according to MotherNature.com. Although mood swings and periodic bouts of sadness are a normal part of life, chronic depression and anxiety are serious disorders. Many doctors prescribe chemical antidepressants to their patients; however, there are also several natural methods available. MotherNature.com notes that these natural herbs may not be as fast-acting or as powerful as their pharmaceutical counterparts, but they are safer for the body as they do not incur chemical dependency.
St. John's Wort
Chemical antidepressants work by regulating the hormone serotonin in the brain, and changes in serotonin levels engender changes in mood, according to MedNet.com. St. John's Wort, an organic herb, has been shown to help improve serotonin levels as well. A series of studies in 1992 revealed that St. John's Wort was more effective than chemical antidepressants. Over half of the participants who were mildly to moderately depressed improved in less than a month of taking this herb. The depression and accompanying sleep deprivation, anxiety, and fatigue generally improved for over half of the participants, as opposed to improvements in one-third of those who took chemical antidepressants, according to MotherNature.com. Unlike many prescribed drugs, St. John's Wort tinctures will not impair concentration, attention or reaction time. HolisticOnline.com encourages steeping 1-2 tsp. of dried St. John's Wort herbs in boiling water for 10 minutes to make tea. It is most effective if taken once or twice a day for four to six weeks, according to HolisticOnline.com.
A colorful spice known for its intense flavor and expensive price tag, saffron is also beneficial as a natural form of treating depression. Clinical findings from the Tehron University of Medical Sciences in Iran suggest that saffron is a safe and effective antidepressant. For example, 30mg of saffron extract taken for six weeks resulted in significant alleviation of depression symptoms compared to those on the placebo--and with no known side effects, according to ITMonline.org. Try cooking with saffron by adding it to rice or vegetable dishes.
According to The Depression Guide, the extract of gingko biloba--one of the oldest living tree species--has been found useful in relieving depression, especially in the elderly. For many patients, gingko has enhanced the potency of other antidepressants, and in some cases it has eliminated the use for chemical antidepressants altogether. Those under the age of 50 may also benefit from gingko biloba, but the greatest level of improvement has been found in elderly patients who suffer from memory loss due to reduced blood flow to the brain, according to DepressionGuide.com.