Herbal Treatments for Depression: Expanding the Options on Your List of Depression Medication

Tess Thompson



Over 20 million adults in the U.S. are suffering from depression, and many of them have explored the use of antidepressant medication to help alleviate their symptoms. Not all people who suffer from depression choose to use medication; oftentimes, therapy alone is enough to successfully treat the condition. But those who do are faced with a variety of options -- including herbal ones.

Antidepressants are more widely used to treat serious depression than mild depression. There are several kinds of antidepressants, all of which work slightly differently. One common type is the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). This type of medication specifically targets the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is essential in monitoring mood. Commonly prescribed SSRIs include Prozac, Paxil, Luvox and Zoloft.

Another kind of antidepressant is the monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI). MAOIs are usually only recommended to patients with atypical symptoms, and are not usually the first type of antidepressant prescribed to a person. If a patient is not responding to other types of antidepressants, a doctor may recommend an MAOI. MAOIs work by reducing the amount of monoamine oxidase in the brain. Monoamine oxidase is the substance that breaks down neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepenephrine, which help regulate mood. Reducing the amount of monoamine oxidase in the system can help restore brain chemical balance. Nardil and Parnate are examples of MAOIs.

While prescription antidepressants can work for some patients, they also produce an alarming amount of side effects in many cases. Sexual dysfunction, nausea, diarrhea and headaches are just a few of the commonly reported side effects. Even more disturbingly, these medications can also cause thoughts of suicide, particularly in younger patients.

Many who are fed up with the side effects of antidepressants (or who simply don't want to risk them in the first place) turn instead to natural remedies for depression. Some remedies have proven to be so effective that they outsell prescription medications in some markets. St. John's Wort, for example, is one of the herbal treatments for depression that works so well that in Germany, it outsells many major prescription antidepressants. St. John's Wort is believed to boost serotonin levels in the brain, naturally lifting spirits and alleviating feelings of depression.

There are many other natural ingredients that are effective in treating depression, including passion flower, ginko biloba, and kava kava, among others. You should always consult a doctor before beginning or ending any prescription medication, and if you decide to pursue the option of treating depression naturally, remember to give the medication time to take effect. Whatever choice you make, patience and perseverance in exploring the options on your list of depression medication will ultimately lead you to a happier, healthier life.

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