Natural Remedies For Depression

Medically reviewed by Paige Henry, LMSW, J.D.
Updated December 7, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team
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Depression is a serious mental health condition that affects an estimated 21 million adults in the US. Characterized by low mood, fatigue, physical pain, and lack of motivation, depression can have a significant impact on an individual’s life. Treatment for the condition typically comprises medication and therapy, two forms of care that are proven to improve depressive symptoms. Many people, though, look for ways of supplementing their treatment or using alternative approaches to managing a depressive disorder.

If you’re looking for holistic methods of treatment for depression, natural remedies can be a safe, available and effective way of alleviating your symptoms.

In this article, we’re going to cover several different natural techniques for coping with depression and how they can benefit you. 

You Deserve Support As You Navigate Depression

Conventional Treatment For Depression

In the 1960s, research demonstrated a link between an imbalance of certain neurotransmitters and depression. As a result, psychotropic drugs became a first-line treatment for depression. Psychotherapy is another approach that is widely utilized when treating depression. Mental health professionals can help participants navigate the mental, physical, and emotional effects of depressive disorders through various therapeutic modalities. 

Natural Approaches To Depression Treatment

There are several reasons an individual may choose to pursue alternative treatments for depression. Some people experience adverse effects (e.g., gastrointestinal distress, headaches, fatigue) from antidepressants. Others may want to find coping strategies that can complement their current treatment. Additionally, as a result of the treatment gap that is thought to exist in mental health care, many people do not have the therapeutic resources. Regardless of the reason for an individual pursuing alternative treatments for depression, natural remedies can provide relief from many symptoms of this complex disorder.  

It's important to note that you should always consult with a healthcare provider before starting or stopping a treatment plan for depression. A mental health or medical professional can help you determine whether an alternative approach to depression treatment is necessary and how it can be best implemented. 

There are a variety of natural methods of treatment for depression. These holistic strategies range from supplements to physical activities to creative endeavors. Depending on your symptoms, lifestyle, and other factors, some of the following natural remedies for depression may work better than others. 


Often, people with depression ruminate over the past and worry about the future, which can cause them to become stuck in a cycle of depressive thoughts. Practicing mindfulness techniques can help these individuals recognize such thought patterns, limit rumination, and reduce stress that may exacerbate symptoms of depression.

Mindfulness refers to an increased awareness of the present through enhanced focus on one’s thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. Studies show that mindfulness can lead to improvements in depressive symptoms and can specifically reduce rumination in individuals with depression. The increased attentiveness that mindfulness fosters can help individuals identify thoughts that may worsen depression symptoms. 

To practice mindfulness, consider going for a mindfulness walk, in which you activate your five senses to fully immerse yourself in your surroundings. Take note of how you feel, both physically and emotionally, while also drawing your attention to your environment. If your mind begins ruminating, gently redirect your thoughts back to the sensations of the present moment. 

Breathing Exercises

There is evidence of a link between deep breathing and reduced depressive symptoms. Stress is often a major contributing factor to depression. Breathing exercises are an effective and convenient way of reducing the physical effects of stress—physical tension, rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, etc.—which can help you control your emotions and relax. 

A common breathing exercise is box breathing. To start, take a deep breath in for a four count, hold your breath for a four count, breathe out for a four count, and then hold again for a four count. Repeat this process three to four times. Breathing exercises can be utilized almost anywhere, so they may be particularly helpful when you’re experiencing depression. 

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There is a substantial body of research pointing to exercise as an effective strategy for managing depression. Physical activity can boost your mood, reduce stress, and improve symptoms of physical health conditions that may partially contribute to depression. Exercise with the goal of reducing depression does not have to be strenuous. Low-impact exercises like tai chi have been shown to decrease symptoms of depression


Acupuncture, which arose out of traditional Chinese medicine, has been connected to improvements in depressive symptoms. This practice involves sticking thin needles in one’s skin in efforts to promote the flow of energy in the body. Thought to promote emotional control, acupuncture can help an individual address the low mood that often accompanies depression. It can also help with physical pain, another common depressive symptom. Consulting with a healthcare provider may be particularly important prior to acupuncture as it is not recommended for people who are pregnant, have certain skin conditions, or may otherwise experience adverse effects. 


Given the strength of the mind-body connection—the proven association between mental and physical health—ensuring you’re providing your body with important nutrients can be key to your ability to navigate depression. There is an abundance of evidence linking diet to depression; and recently, researchers discovered that depression often coincides with an imbalance of bacteria in the gut. Additionally, diet can contribute to certain diseases that may lead to depression. 

To take advantage of the benefits of a balanced diet, consider cutting back on red meat, refined sugar (and other processed foods), and high-fat dairy products. The Mediterranean diet—which centers around the consumption of fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, nuts, legumes, and lean meats—can help lower the odds of experiencing depression.

Herbal And Dietary Supplements

The results of numerous studies show that certain herbal treatments may improve depression symptoms. Again, always consult with a healthcare professional prior to using herbal supplements. Natural herbal supplements for depression include St. John's wort, lavender, chamomile, lemon balm, saffron, and a variety of other naturally occurring substances. 

Natural dietary supplements for depression include folate, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids. Some of these, such as omega-3 fatty acids, may be best acquired by eating foods in a healthy and well-rounded diet. If taken under the care of a doctor, herbs and other supplements can be effective and safe natural remedies for depression.

Creative Projects

Studies show that creative pursuits can improve depressive symptoms. There are even therapeutic modalities, such as art therapy, that take advantage of these benefits. Creativity can help you express feelings of sadness or loneliness in a healthy and unique way. Additionally, the satisfaction associated with completing a creative project may prompt increased production of dopamine, which can lead to feelings of well-being and contentment. Whether you’re interested in writing, painting, sculpting, playing music, cooking, or crafting, you can likely find a creative outlet as you work through depressive symptoms. 


Education is often an important aspect of caring for your mental health. Books can help you understand how and why depression symptoms manifest and provide information about treatment options. There are numerous titles that are dedicated to addressing depression.

Some depression books are based on established therapeutic principles; for example, Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think uses ideas from cognitive behavioral therapy to explain how our thoughts can lead to maladaptive emotions and behaviors related to depression. Others provide information on natural treatments we’ve already discussed, such as The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness. You can find books on almost any depression-related treatment method or topic so that you’re learning information that is relevant to your symptoms.

Reading can be an especially effective way of learning about depression. Most public libraries have books on a variety of mental health topics, many of which can be loaned in eBook or audiobook formats. You can also often find affordable used books online or at discount stores. 

Navigating Depression With Online Therapy

An increasingly large body of evidence points to online therapy as an effective form of care for depression. For example, in one study, researchers found that online therapy led to a “significant reduction in depressive symptoms”—results that were sustained for up to a year following treatment. The study also mentions the ability of online therapy to bridge the treatment gap in mental health (mentioned above), allowing for easier hold to care. 

Online therapy is a convenient and flexible method of addressing depressive symptoms. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can connect with a licensed therapist remotely, which can be helpful if depression makes leaving home difficult. Online therapy is also an affordable option—BetterHelp subscriptions start at $65 per week (billed every 4 weeks), and you can cancel anytime. 

You Deserve Support As You Navigate Depression


Depression can be a challenging disorder, so it can help to have a variety of strategies for reducing its negative effects. Natural remedies like exercise, a balanced diet, and mindfulness allow you to supplement your current treatment plan or utilize a holistic approach to addressing depressive symptoms. If you’d like further help, consider reaching out to a qualified therapist online. With the right support, strategies, and resources, you can manage depression in a safe and effective manner.

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