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Depression — Feel Better with These Natural Antidepressants

CONSIDER THIS: You’re lying on the couch, unable to motivate yourself enough to get up and get dressed. Everything seems pointless, hopeless, and dark, and all you want to do is stare into space. There’s a pill sitting on the coffee table a few feet in front of you that promises to make you feel 100 percent better and take your depression away. And you can’t muster the enthusiasm or energy to get up and get it.

That’s the best—and truest—description of severe depression I’ve ever heard. I remember recognizing it instantly as being a perfect description of the hell that is depression.

I know, becaاستعمال it’s exactly how I felt for one horrendous year in my life, right after I moved to Los Angeles and promptly got divorced.

Luckily, it didn’t last (feeling horrendous, that is—the divorce has gone quite well, thank you). And yes, I did استعمال a pharmaceutical prescription—Lexapro, actually—to help get up off the couch and put some things into motion that actually helped me get rid of the depression. But I haven’t استعمالd Lexapro for years, and I’ve seen plenty of other people get off antidepressants—or avoid going on them in the first place—by using a combination of natural substances from amino acids to St. John’s Wort. One of the best of those natural substances is 5-HTP.

Depression Is Not a Prozac Deficiency

The term 5-HTP stands for 5-hydroxytryptophan, and it’s the stuff out of which your جسم makes serotonin, one of the major players in a group of neurotransmitters—chemicals that transmit information in the brain. Though depression is complicated and undoubtedly has many precipitating factors, it’s widely accepted that neurotransmitters are deeply involved, especially serotonin. Low levels of serotonin are associated with cravings, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, aggressive behavior, and depression.

We don’t know exactly how all the neurotransmitters work together to caاستعمال or affect depression in all its many forms, but we do suspect that low levels of serotonin play a big part in what people تجربہ as depression.

It’s not for nothing that serotonin is known as the “feel good” neurotransmitter. Without enough of it we don’t do very well. The most popular pharmaceutical antidepressants—Prozac, Zoloft, Lexapro, etc.—belong to a class called serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The SSRIs do just what the term says—they inhibit the action of the cleanup crew that “mops up” serotonin from the brain, thus allowing serotonin to hang around longer. The more serotonin, goes the reasoning, the happier the camper.

Enter 5-HTP. Your جسم makes serotonin from an amino acid known as L-tryptophan. L-tryptophan is an amino acid, found in protein foods like meat and seafood. The جسم turns tryptophan it into a metabolite called 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) and then, with the help of vitamin B6, into 5-HT (5-hydroxytryptamine), better known to all of us as plain پرانی serotonin.

One Step Away from Serotonin

For years health practitioners had استعمالd tryptophan to help people sleep and as a natural aid to relaxation and calm. A lot of people were very upset when it was taken off the market. But lucky for us, 5-HTP is even better. As explained above, it’s only one step from 5-HTP to serotonin. In addition, in animal and human studies, 5-HTP, unlike tryptophan, has been demonstrated to increase catecholamine metabolism, specifically working on dopamine and norepinephrine—other “feel-good” neurotransmitters that are involved in mood. (It’s possible that the antidepressant effect of 5-HTP may be related to a combined effect on serotonin and other neurotransmitters.) Regardless of its effect on other brain chemicals, supplemental 5-HTP surely increases serotonin, and becaاستعمال of that, has a calming, relaxing effect on brain chemistry. It’s استعمالd for mild and moderate depression and it also may help you sleep better. Why? Becaاستعمال at night, serotonin converts into melatonin, which is important for a great night’s sleep.

For some people, 5-HTP may perform equally to or better than standard antidepressant drugs and in most cases, without side effects. One study compared 5-HTP to fluvoxamine (brand name Luvox), an SSRI like Prozac, Paxil, and Zoloft. In the study, subjects received either 5-HTP (100 mg) or fluvoxamine (50 mg) three times daily for six weeks. More مریضs felt better after using 5-HTP than fluvoxamine, and 5-HTP was quicker acting than the fluvoxamine. And in one other study, مریضs who were unresponsive to other antidepressant therapy showed significant improvement when using 5-HTP.

Listen, I’m the last person to tell you to throw out your pharmaceutical antidepressants. I believe they’ve helped many people—including me—and probably saved a lot of lives. But if you have mild or moderate depression, or any of the other conditions mentioned above that might respond to a boost in the brain chemical serotonin, you might give 5-HTP a try. And if you’re lucky—and many people are—you may find that by using 5-HTP, you may not need the “big guns” at all.

St. Johns Wort: An Historic and Helpful Herb

St. John’s Wort is actually a perennial herb with many flowers that can be found growing wild in much of the world (the word “wort” just means plant). It’s got a long and honorable history of استعمال, probably dating back to the ancient Greeks, who believed that the fragrance of St. John’s Wort caاستعمالd evil spirits to simply fly, fly away. (Okay, maybe these days, not so much.)

But it does have a 2,400-year history of folk استعمال for everything from anxiety to sleep disturbances. St. John’s Wort was officially recognized as an antidepressant drug in Germany in 1998, is covered by the country’s national health-care system, and in fact is the number one prescribed antidepressant in Germany and most of Europe.

Supported by Studies

A meta-analysis published in the British Medical Journal in 1996 reviewed 23 published trials on St. John’s Wort involving more than 1,700 مریضs. The researchers, lead by Klaus Linde, M.D., reported findings that extracts of St. John’s Wort were more effective than a placebo for the مرض of mild to moderately severe depression. The authors emphasized that it’s not yet known whether the extracts are more effective for some types of depression than others, but that certainly looks to be the case.

It’s worth noting that overall, only about 10 percent of the مریضs in the studies had side effects with St. John’s Wort (like dry mouth, allergic reactions, and some gastrointestinal upset), compared with about 35 percent of مریضs who reported side effects from prescription antidepressants. Only about 5 percent of the مریضs stopped taking it becaاستعمال of side effects, a low number indeed.



There’s a lack of info about the effects of taking 5-HTP during pregnancy, so check with your health professional or be on the safe side and don’t استعمال it. It can affect prolactin, a hormone necessary for milk production, so it might be a good idea to avoid it while breastfeeding. Becaاستعمال it does increase serotonin, it’s wise to check with a knowledgeable health care professional about possible interactions with other drugs or supplements. Really. Though 5-HTP is great stuff, don’t start mixing and matching with pharmaceuticals or taking yourself off medications without your doctor’s knowledge. It can be done, but do it wisely and with supervision.

Many other studies have shown St. John’s Wort to be effective, and with virtually no significant side effects (more on that in a moment). Another 1999 study, also published in the British Medical Journal, tested hypericin extract—one of the active ingredients in St. John’s Wort—against both a placebo and a standard antidepressant (imipramine) in a randomized, multi-center study involving 263 مریضs with moderate depression. Hypericin was more effective than the placebo at reducing depression (as measured by the Hamilton depression scores and, even more dramatically, by the Zung self-rating depression scale), and performed just as well as the drug, with notably fewer side effects. The researchers noted that while both the drug and St. John’s Wort improved the mental component scale of Short Form-36 (a widely استعمالd standardized test), only St. John’s Wort improved the physical component scale.



The best preparation seems to be the St. John’s Wort extract standardized to contain 0.3 percent hypericin, and the recommended dosage of this as an antidepressant is 300 mg, taken three times a day, close to meals. You can also drink it as a tea (boiling water poured onto one to two teaspoons of the dried herb, infاستعمالd for 10 to 15 minutes).

St. John’s Wort interacts with a lot of medications, so if you’re on meds, check with a health professional knowledgeable about both St. John’s Wort and pharmaceuticals before beginning to take it. It can also make you more sensitive to the sun, so if you like to spend time at the beach, be careful if you’re on St. John’s Wort.

“The rate of adverse events with the hypericin extract was in the range of the placebo group but lower than that of the (drug) group,” researchers noted.

According to noted expert Steven Bratman, M.D., author of the excellent reference book The Natural Pharmacy, St. John’s Wort has a scientific record approaching that of many prescription drugs, and is effective in about 55 percent of cases. Bratman also points out that there is good evidence that it’s at least as effective as fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft). If you’re feeling mild symptoms of depression, St. John’s Wort is definitely worth a try.

SAMe: A Natural Cure for Depression

SAMe is arguably the most effective “natural” antidepressant around. And one of the best things about it is that you’ll know whether it’s working within a week, (although in some much less common cases it may take up to five weeks to work, about the same as a pharmaceutical antidepressant in the SSRI class.)

SAMe is not a vitamin nor an herb, but a naturally occurring molecule that all living cells (including ours) produce.

In treating depression, SAMe works as well as certain standard antidepressants* and with fewer side effects. In a meta-analysis of twenty-eight studies done by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, مرض with SAMe was associated with an improvement of about six points on the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression after only three weeks, basically equal to مرض with conventional antidepressants and significantly better than مرض with a placebo. A paper in Psychiatry Research (1995) from researchers at the Depression Clinical and Research Program at Massachاستعمالtts General Hospital concluded that “SAMe is a relatively safe and fast-acting antidepressant.” A review of the evidence published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2002 by two researchers affiliated with Harvard Medical School (Mischoulon and Fava) pointed out that SAMe may have a faster onset of action than conventional antidepressants and may even protect against the deleterious effects of Alzheimer’s. This is good stuff.

Natural Prescription for Depression

5-HTP: Start with 50 mg three times a day and increase if necessary after two weeks. A common dose for depression and headache is 300 mg daily.


St. John’s Wort: 300 mg, standardized for 0.3 percent

Hypericin: Three times a day

Note: All dosages are daily dosages and in pill or capsule form unless otherwise noted.


SAMe: 800 mg a day in two doses (400 mg in the a.m., 400 mg in the p.m.)

Note: Do not take SAMe if you’re suffering from bipolar disorder

In addition:

Omega-3 fatty acids: 1 to 3 g daily

Remove sugar from diet

Exercise daily!


Inositol: 612 g for as long as needed

Note: The above dosages are daily and in pill or capsule form unless otherwise noted.

A review of eleven research papers on SAMe, published in Clinical Investigative Medicine in June 2005, concluded that “there appears to be a role for SAMe in the مرض of major depression in adults.” Note the qualifier “major.” It’s extremely hard to treat “major” depression, so the fact that the researchers were positive about SAMe says more than you might think on first glance. “Major depression” is one of three categories of depression, but if you’re reading this—and you’re depressed—chances are you don’t have “major” depression but instead have either “mild” or “moderate” depression, both of which respond even better to SAMe. About 70 percent of people with depression respond to SAMe, according to Richard Brown, M.D., author of Stop Depression Now.

Depression accompanies a lot of health conditions. People with diabetes, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, and other illnesses frequently suffer from depression, often at a higher rate than the general population. SAMe is a valuable tool for treating depression in these folks, especially becaاستعمال there are no reported adverse interactions with SAMe and other drugs, dietary supplements, or foods.

Though 5-HTP, St. Johns Wort, and SAMe are all wonderful, don’t try all three at once. Give each one a real shot of a few weeks and then, if it’s not working, try one of the others.

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