According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression is a medical condition that affects approximately 21 million adults annually in the United States. The Mayo Clinic says some research points to irregularities in neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) including serotonin as having an impact on behavior and mood. The Mayo Clinic says antidepressant medications known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) may help alleviate the symptoms of depression by preventing the reabsorption (reuptake) of serotonin by certain nerve cells in the brain. This leads to an increase in serotonin levels in the brain that improves mood. Some herbal remedies may have similar effects on serotonin levels.
St. John's Wort
The NIH says St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) goes back thousands of years to ancient Greece as a medicinal aid for a number of health conditions. This durable plant with yellow flowers contains a number of chemical compounds, the effects of which are not completely understood. However, the NIH says early research suggests St. John's wort may help treat mild to moderate depression by blocking nerve cells in the brain from reabsorbing serotonin.
The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC) says Asian ginseng appears to be linked to improved mental alertness and mood enhancement. The UMMC says further research is necessary before it can recommend ginseng as a treatment for depression.
According to Holistic online.com, Siberian ginseng helps balance serotonin levels as well as the neurotransmitters (dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine) in the brain. Holistic online says this herb can help depressed individuals improve their sense of well-being.
Kava is an herb native to the Pacific that is used to treat a number of conditions including, depression stress and anxiety. According to NaturalNews.com, it is possible that Kava may impact both serotonin and dopamine levels.
According to the Blessed Maine Herb Farm, cannabis, sometimes referred to as the "giver of joy," can significantly boost serotonin levels. ScienceDaily.com says a study involving laboratory animals suggested that cannabis may increase levels of serotonin when taken in low doses.
The study was led by Dr. Gabriella Gobbi of McGill University in Montréal, Quebec, Canada. The findings were published in the October 24, 2007, issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.