What Are The Natural Cures For Depression?

Updated September 7, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Everybody has felt sad at one point or another, whether it’s because of something small or because you experienced something traumatic. Although it would be lovely to feel happy all the time, this is simply not the reality of the human emotional experience; happiness is a spectrum and our feelings of happiness naturally fluctuate throughout our lives. Fortunately, however, just as happiness fluctuates, the same is true for sadness; although we occasionally encounter moments of sadness in our lives, they usually don’t last too long.

But if you’re experiencing significant feelings of sadness that weigh you down for more than two weeks at a time, it’s likely that you aren’t just sad anymore. Instead, you may experiencing a mental health condition called depression that can have a significant impact on your mental health, your emotional wellbeing, and your quality of life.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at depression and some of the natural remedies that are available to help you cope with your symptoms.

What is Depression?

The Anxiety & Depression Association of America defines depression as a serious mental illness that affects more than 264 million people worldwide. The ADAA explains that depression is characterized by having at least five out of nine common symptoms.

These symptoms include:

  • Inability to control emotions
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Fatigue and sleep issues
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability (in men)
  • Changes in appetite or weight fluctuations
  • Loss of motivation or interest in the things you usually enjoy
  • Recurrent thoughts of suicidal ideation.

Even if you don’t make specific plans to take your life, people with severe depression may spend a lot of time thinking that everything would be better if they were dead or that they just don’t want to exist anymore. People with severe depression may also experience reduced mental clarity in the form of significant memory loss or an inability to concentrate. Co-occurring alcohol or drug abuse is also possible. When these symptoms persist for more than two weeks, they meet the criteria for someone to be diagnosed with depression.

Common Misconceptions About Depression

There are a number of common misconceptions about depression, including the belief that being sad is the same thing as being clinically depressed. But, in reality, when we consider the symptoms mentioned above, it’s easy to see that depression is so much more than simply feeling a little bit sad. Moments of sadness come and go throughout the average person’s life but occasional feelings of sadness do not affect a person’s mental and physical health like the symptoms of clinical depression.

So, if you or someone you love is showing signs of depression, it’s also important to remember that people who live with depression aren’t lazy. This is another common misconception and it can be very harmful for people who live with depression, as it perpetuates the idea that someone is simply sad and that they should be able to “tough it out” or “get over it” on their own. In reality, however, nothing could be farther from the truth.

People who live with the symptoms of depression are often doing the best they can to fight through extremely difficult symptoms that can make it difficult to engage with relationships and responsibilities as normal. Keeping this in mind and refraining from perpetuating harmful stereotypes can be very helpful for those around you who are struggling with symptoms of depression.

What Causes Depression?

Depression can be caused by a wide variety of factors including environmental, situational, psychological, or social causes. For example, in the case of situational depression, you might feel sad or lost as a result of losing your job or breaking up with a partner. If these events have had a significant impact on your life, you may go through a period of situational depression, where you experience prolonged feelings of sadness for two weeks or more as a result of your specific circumstances.

If you think about situational depression through the lens of a movie plot, this would be the part in a film where the main character encounters a substantial setback and feels as though they are losing hope. But, crucially, their circumstances change or they find a solution and they are able to move forward with a new sense of hope and purpose.

This is often the case with people who experience a bout of situational depression. Although they are no less depressed than someone battling chronic depression, situational depression is more likely to dissipate when someone’s circumstances change. By contrast, however, someone who is experiencing chronic depression may not get a reprieve when their circumstances change. For people living with chronic depression, their deep and persistent sadness is caused by a chemical imbalance that causes them to continue feeling sad even when they want to be happy.

Treatment For Depression

If you’re struggling with depression for any reason, the first and most important thing for you to know is that you don’t have to deal with this on your own. When you connect with a therapist, you will be accessing an invaluable resource; your therapist can help you unpack your feelings and provide you with positive coping mechanisms and beneficial tools that can help you solve your problems.

The specific treatment option that works best for you will depend on you and your symptoms. There is no “one size fits all” approach to therapy; your therapist’s goal is to get to know you as an individual and to find the therapeutic solution that will help you live your happiest, healthiest life. However, if you want a clear idea of what you can expect, there are a few common treatments for anxiety and depression that your therapist may use to help you. These may include the use of antidepressants, anti anxiety medications, and therapeutic strategies such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (which is commonly referred to by the abbreviation CBT) is considered the gold standard in therapeutic treatment for depression and anxiety disorders. So, how does CBT actually work in practice? The simplest definition is that CBT is a type of talk therapy. This form of therapy is designed to reduce depression and anxiety by reframing our thoughts and providing a positive alternative to the stories we tell ourselves.

For example, if you experience feelings of depression every day, you may often think, “I’m so sad” or “I hate my life” or “I’m never going to be happy.” These are common feelings that people with depression experience and these feelings can inform your behavior and, consequently, your perception of situations. But CBT aims to alter this internal monologue by reframing your thoughts in a more positive and rational context so you can go through life without being paralysed by these feelings.

For example, CBT often encourages people to avoid a practice known as “black and white thinking.” This type of thought process is common for people who live with anxiety and depression because the anxious and depressed brain tends to think in extremes as a result of the fear signals and/or feelings of sadness that are flooding the brain. In practice, this might cause someone to think, “Everything is going to go wrong!” But CBT encourages people to reframe that thought by making a conscious effort to tell yourself something like, “I’m experiencing feelings of anxiety right now. My brain is causing me to worry that the worst possible outcome will occur.”

This might sound quite simplistic but, in reality, reframing your thought processes can be extremely beneficial! When we re-write our internal script, we can remember that thoughts and feelings are not facts; our brains may send us these signals but that doesn’t mean that these signals are accurate representations of reality. Re-training your brain in this manner can be incredibly beneficial for someone who is struggling with depression.

Some people also find that medication is very helpful for their experience with depression and that their depression symptoms almost disappear thanks to the combination of therapy and medication. Medications that are commonly used to treat agitated depression may include antidepressants, mood stabilisers, and anti-anxiety medications. Each of these medications can be uniquely helpful in their own ways.

For example, antidepressants can help to alleviate depression symptoms, while mood stabilizers can help people avoid the extreme mood swings that can sometimes occur when people experience depression. Likewise, medications that are specially formulated to reduce anxiety may help you feel a general sense of calm and holistically reduce your symptoms. The specific combination of therapy and medication you need will be unique to you, so it’s important to remember that you should only take medication that has been prescribed to you by a physician, whether that’s your primary care doctor or a licensed mental health professional.

It’s also important to remember that some people don’t respond to medication at all and find significant relief from their symptoms after solely treating their agitated depression with therapy. Others find that medications provide an invaluable service in relieving the worst symptoms of their depression while the therapy takes time to work. Many wellness professionals believe a combination of medication and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (or some other talk therapy) is the best approach for treating depression.

Connecting with a therapist can be highly beneficial because therapy provides you with professional insights about your symptoms and the arsenal of tools you need to fight depression and reclaim your peace of mind.

Natural Cures For Depression

The treatment options referenced above are considered the gold standard in medical treatment for depression. But some people prefer to take a more natural and organic approach to every aspect of their lives, so it’s common to inquire about natural remedies for depression that don’t involve therapy or medication. This is especially common if someone has had a negative experience with medication or therapy or both.

So, let’s take a look at some of the natural methods you can try on your own.

Exercise

Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural antidepressants. Exercise is beneficial for anyone but it can be especially helpful for people who are struggling with their mental health. If you can get up, get your body moving, and encourage the production of your body’s natural “happy chemicals,” you may be surprised to find yourself feeling better!

Avoid Caffeine

Caffeine is known to reduce levels of serotonin, a naturally occurring chemical in your body connected to levels of well-being. This is the opposite of what you want when you experience depression (it can even make your depression more severe!) Most people enjoy a good cup of coffee, especially if you’re a student or a professional working long hours, so no one wants to be told to cut out their daily cup of Joe. But if you’re struggling with symptoms of depression, it’s important to know that caffeine can make you feel more depressed and more anxious, so your coffee may be contributing to your symptoms! You don’t have to go cold turkey right away though; if you regularly drink a lot of coffee— or even caffeinated tea— you may want to gradually reduce your caffeine intake until it is eventually eliminated from your diet.

Soak up Some Sun

Sunlight exposure helps boost your vitamin D levels, and that in turn can improve your mood. Sitting in the sun can even help improve your cognitive function which can be impaired as a result of depression.

Get Enough Sleep

Sleeping can be difficult when you feel anxious or depressed— and it can be even harder if you’re experiencing both at the same time! As a result, it may feel impossible to develop a strict sleeping schedule and stick to it. But it’s still important to do everything you can to cultivate a healthy relationship with sleep. Everyone’s mental and physical health improves after a night of good quality sleep and this is especially true for people who are experiencing symptoms of depression.

So, wherever possible, try to do little things to improve the quality of sleep you’re getting. For example, minimising the time you spend on your phone before bed, going to sleep at the same time each night, and showering with products that have calming scents like lavender can help you create a restful environment before bed.

What is the Difference Between Complementary and Alternative Medicine?

Natural medicines and nutritional supplements are frequently associated with alternative medicine. However, it is not true that all doctors treat mental problems using natural therapies and dietary supplements are alternative medicine practitioners. Many actually fall under the category of integrative health, often known as complementary medicine.

Both complementary and alternative medicine practitioners will use herbal and dietary supplements in the treatment of depressive disorders, but where alternative medicine practitioners avoid using mainstream medications entirely, integrative health practitioners will use dietary supplements and other natural remedies alongside mainstream medication and treatments.

Studies suggest that some of the natural remedies listed below can be used in place of other drugs (like preescription medications) by wellness professionals to improve symptoms of major depression.

The following are some complimentary and integrative approaches to treating depression:

Dietary Supplements

While it’s best to get our vitamins and nutrients from eating foods, sometimes life gets int he way. For that, there are dietary supplements.

There are a range of dietary supplements for treating depression that are available for purchase over the counter.

There include:

  • Vitamin B3
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B9
  • Vitamin B12
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids (Fish Oil Supplements)

Of all the dietary supplements out there, perhaps the best are those for Vitamin D and Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to depressive symptoms, as well as reduced cogntiive function. Given about 75% of adults are deficient in Vitamin D, there is a chance taking a Vitamin D dietary supplement may be useful in treating moderate depression and depressive disorders such as seasonal affective disorders.

Meanwhile, research suggests that the Omega-3 fatty acids commonly found in cold water fish can can be useful in reducing symptoms of depression, with comparable effectiveness to prescription antidepressant medication.

Herbal Supplements

Aside from using taking a dietary supplement, there are also a range of herbal supplement pills available.

John’s Wort

St. John's Wort, or, John’s Wort,  is a relatively well-known herb that has been used successfully for ages to treat depression. In fact, St. John's Wort is now one of the most regularly used depression therapies in Germany, outselling prescription medications such as Prozac!

And that’s not surprising. Peer-reviewed studies have found that John’s Wort is at least as effective in relieving symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression as traditional antidepressants.

In a trial study, patients were given St. John's Wort together with folic acid. The combination effectively treated depression symptoms by modifying serotonin receptors and helping in the breakdown of serotonin and noradrenaline.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (part of the National Institute of Mental Health) found some support for the use of St. John's Wort in the treatment of major depression, but cautions that more research is needed.

The suggested dosage of St. John's Wort is 450mg twice daily; however, more or less can be taken based on the individual's specific situation (for example, if the person is also battling other health issues or is on medication the dosage may need to be altered accordingly). It is most commonly taken as a capsule/pill or consumed as a tea.

Note: St. John’s Wortmay interact with oral contraception, leading to adverse health consequences. Those taking birth control pills or other medications should consult their consult their doctor before taking St. John’s Wort.

Rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea)

Another natural depression treatment is Rhodiola. Also known as Arctic Root or Golden Root, Rhodiola is especially effective in managing and treating depression induced by stress and stressful conditions, as well as depression caused by PTSD. It’s also useful for combatting stress and helping to balance out one’s mood. The plant has been used for decades in Northern Europe (where it originated), and it is still widely used as a tea in Russia to cure low attention span, weariness, and memory difficulties.

One study found that Rhodiola can be used to improve mood in those with depression and other mental health conditions like generalized anxiety. However, the authors of the study themselves not they did not control for the placebo effect. For that reason and others, more research is needed on the efficacy and safety of Rhodiola.

Rhodiola is best taken medicinally as an extract containing roughly 2-3% rosavin and 0.8-1% salidroside (both vital constituents in the plant). Individuals suffering from mild to moderate depression should begin by taking 100mg of the extract once day for one week, then raise the dosage by 100mg every week until 400mg daily is achieved.

NOTE: medical professionals advise against taking Rhodiola for anyone who is already taking prescription antidepresstants. This is because taking both at the same time can lead to a buildup of excessive levels of the brain chemical serotonin in the body. This can lead to a chemical imbalance known as serotonin syndrom. In addition, can also trigger manic symptoms in those diagosed with bipolar disorder. If you have bipolar disorder or are taking other drugs, you should consult you doctor before taking Rhodiola.

Rhodiola is best taken medicinally as an extract containing roughly 2-3% rosavin and 0.8-1% salidroside (both vital constituents in the plant). Individuals suffering from mild to moderate depression should begin by taking 100mg of the extract once day for one week, then raise the dosage by 100mg every week until 400mg daily is achieved.

Lavender

Another natural remedy for depression is lavender. A short, recent study published in 2020 discovered that lavender oils can successfully alleviate depressed symptoms in healthy people. The primary In addition to helping those with depression, lavender oil can help with anxiety by soothing the parasympathetic nervous system.

As with anything with psychological effects, it’s best to take any supplement only as your doctor prescribes. You can also refer to the National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health website for further research.

Getting Help

These are just a few easy, natural habits that you can incorporate into your daily life without a great deal of difficulty. However, it’s important to remember that none of these things are cures in and of themselves. So, if you’re struggling with symptoms of depression and you want to try some natural approaches to treatment, all of the things on this list can be a big help. But if you try any or all of these things and find that your depression symptoms do not improve, remember that it’s okay to seek a little extra help. There are a number of common misconceptions about therapy and people often allow their assumptions to influence their choices when it comes to mental health care.

But, no matter what you’ve heard, in reality, therapy is for everyone! If you were experiencing persistent pain in your arm that limited your mobility and affected your quality of life, most people wouldn’t think twice about going to a doctor for help. And the same should be true for mental health care. Sometimes, when people experience symptoms of depression, it’s easy to invalidate your own experience by telling yourself that you’re “just feeling sad” or that you should “get over it.” But if you spend the majority of time feeling sad— even when you want to be happy— it’s important to consider the fact that you may be struggling with depression and that you can’t simply get rid of these symptoms on your own.

So, if you feel ready to reach out and seek hope and healing through therapy, you may want to consider BetterHelp! BetterHelp is an online mental health provider run by licensed counselors and therapists who are passionate about making mental health care accessible to all. With the advances in modern technology, many people have gravitated toward online therapy because this format is more convenient in our hectic, fast-paced world. Rather than needing to amend your schedule to attend an in-person therapy appointment, online therapy is literally right at your fingertips; you can chat with your therapist from the comfort of your own phone any time you want!

Talking to someone and asking for support is also a very normal and natural form of treatment for depression. So, if you want to treat your depression with a more natural approach, it’s okay to include the support of a licensed mental health professional on your journey. Whenever you feel ready to ask someone for help, remember that BetterHelp is here for you and you can reach out at any time!

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