Natural Remedies for
Stress and Depression
Natural remedies for stress and depression, anxiety and insomnia, memory problems, mental performance, mood, PMS, and fatigue.
ON THIS PAGE:
Guidelines for Stress and Depression
and Benjamin Franklin's Rules for a Good Life.
Homeopathy for Stress and Depression
St. John's Wort, Rhodiola, Ginkgo, Lavender, Valerian.
Vitamin B complex, B6, B12.
Other important supplements:
5-HTP and Tryptophan
More Natural Remedies Info
from Natural Health Answers Report
Information on this site is for educational and personal use only, and is not intended in any way as prescription or diagnosis. It is not a substitute for medical advice. If you have a medical condition, or take prescription medication, do not neglect good quality medical support.
The terms ‘treat’ and ‘treatment’, or similar, do not promise or imply cure.
Information given about products or their ingredients refers to research-based evidence; some sources of evidence are on the Links pages. It would be impossible to fit the information in these references onto each page.
Reference to ‘traditional use’ reflects well-documented common use, by ordinary people, over many years, often in more than one country. ‘Traditional use’ does not imply any research evidence or safety level, it is included for information only, and is not a recommendation.
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Guidelines for Stress & Depression
Rules for a Good Life
People with stress or depression may try avoiding caffeine and sugar for a while, to see how this affects their mood.
- Exercise can boost mood by raising the body’s natural mood-enhancing compounds in the brain (endorphins). Ideally 20-30 minutes a day, or 3 hours a week of any exercise that raises the heart rate. Walking is great! Exercise also helps remove adrenalin, the stress hormone, from our muscles.
- Endorphins are also boosted by laughter, check the evidence at Laughter Network see Links.
- Thyroid deficiency may lead to depression/be mistaken for depression. Get it checked at your GP.
- Although there are many supplements herbs and homeopathic remedies that can lift depression, if you feel suicidal, you may benefit from prescription anti-depressants. Also remember Samaritans, see links.
- Research shows counselling is helpful and the benefits may be longer-lasting than the results of medication.
- Supplements will not, of course, change circumstances or events that may have contributed to your stress or depression.
Benjamin Franklin, American statesman, 1706-1790 (the spellings are his own). Do you agree? let me know.
Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.
Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.
Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.
Imitate Jesus and Socrates.
Stress and Depression
Individual homeopathic treatment is excellent for stress, anxiety, emotional difficulties, panic attacks, lack of confidence, or depression.
Treatment is matched to you individually, and takes into account your own personal situation.A consultation offers you lots of time and personal support.
St. John's Wort (Hypericum)
The most popular herbal anti-depressant.
Current research indicates that this herb acts on neurotransmitters, brain chemicals which influence mood (serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine). It both makes these neurotransmitters more available, and inhibits their re-uptake (stops de-activation). This is similar to SSRI anti-depressants. It may also act similarly to MAOI anti-depressants.
St. John's Wort is widely used in the UK and Europe for mild to moderate depression, insomnia, and anxiety. In studies, it shows less adverse side-effects than conventional anti-depressants. To treat anxiety, it may be used with Valerian, see below.
St. John’s Wort may be useful in menopause, chronic fatigue syndrome, addiction withdrawal, and chronic tension and anxiety. For shift work, SAD or insomnia, it may increase melatonin levels (see also vitamin B12).
St. John’s Wort is such a useful herb for the nerves, it is also used in the relief of shingles (especially the tincture).
Results in depression take around 4 weeks to be apparent. No restriction on duration of use. Not suitable in bipolar disorder (manic depression).
The Latin name for St. John’s Wort is Hypericum.
Warnings: If pregnant or breastfeeding, use only under supervision.
avoid in bipolar illness (manic depression).
St. John’s Wort can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight. Especially avoid artificial UV (sunbeds).
St. John’s Wort can affect the way certain drugs are metabolised (processed by your body), so must be used with caution if you are on any medication from your doctor.
If this is a problem, consider the other supplements listed here, most of which do not interact with drugs, for example, Rhodiola.
Consult this list and ask your doctor or pharmacist.
Note: the following list only includes the generic or class name of a medicine—not specific brand names.
This is not a complete list.
Atazanavir, Fluvoxamine, Paroxetine, Benzodiazepines, Fluoxetine, Phenelzine, Chemotherapy, Fosamprenavine, Sertraline, Cyclosporine, Indinavir, Theophylline/Aminophylline, Digoxin, Nefazodone, Trazodone, Oral Contraceptives, Tricyclic Antidepressants, Venlafaxine, Warfarin or similar blood thinners.
Top of the list for stress-busting herbs, Rhodiola is a Russian plant, now widely used for depression, physical and mental performance, immune system support and sexual health.
Rhodiola is an ‘adaptogen’, that is, it helps us adapt to stress, whether physical, emotional or environmental. Rhodiola increases and balances serotonin, a brain chemical involved in mood. It supports the adrenal glands, which are often overworked producing adrenalin during stressful times. It strengthens the immune system against stress, boosting killer cells, and protecting all cells because it is a powerful anti-oxidant.
Rhodiola can improve mental performance, and increase stamina and sports performance. It is thought to increase sex hormones.
Unlike St. John’s Wort, it does not interact with conventional drugs. Results may also be felt more quickly (personal observation).
Warnings: requires supervision if you have coronary spasm or fluctuations in arterial pressure. requires supervision if you have nervous excitability and hypertension.
If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying? If you cannot solve it, then what is the use of worrying?
Shantideva, early Buddhist, 6th century AD.
Traditionally, Chinese medicine used Ginkgo for the brain. It is primarily a circulation tonic, improving blood flow and protecting the lining of the blood vessels. It also reduces blood clotting, and is an anti-oxidant.
Because it can improve blood flow, Ginkgo is frequently used to improve nerve function, memory, poor concentration and depression. For the same reason, it is also used for male erection problems. Studies have shown benefit in Alzheimer’s disease. As an anti-depressant, Ginkgo can be used alone or can safely be combined with conventional anti-depressants. Its effects are not limited to the elderly – in one study, Ginkgo improved the reaction time of young women in memory tests.
Ginkgo has traditionally been used for deafness, and vertigo.
Recent research suggests Ginkgo may help with vitiligo, perhaps via its anti-oxidant and immune-modulating properties. Ginkgo may arrest the progression of vitiligo; there is no evidence it will cure it.
Warnings: avoid with warfarin or similar anticoagulants .
avoid if pregnant or breastfeeding.
rarely can lead to upset stomach – reduce dose
Supplements: Viridian Ginkgo 360mg* vegecaps or Biohealth Ginkgo 450mg vegecaps, Natures Aid Ginkgo tablets available in 60mg or 120mg, or for drops, go for Vogel Ginkgo or Viridian Organic Ginkgo. Kiwiherb Ginkgo tincture is good, see Kiwiherb at Links.
One of the most widely used herbs for relaxation, usually in the form of the essential oil. I prefer to use organic lavender oil. External use only for oil: it may be applied undiluted or diluted.
Traditionally, herbalists used lavender for a variety of nervous conditions, including depression and fatigue. Studies show Lavender can help in mild to moderate depression, and may relieve agitation in people with dementia.
It is an effective herb for headaches, especially when they are related to stress. As a gentle strengthening tonic of the nervous system, it can be used for nervous debility and exhaustion. It may soothe and promote natural sleep and less restlessness at night. Externally, it may be used to help ease aches and pains, and is mildly antiseptic. Suitable for children.
Hildegarde of Bingen recommended Lavender for 'maintaining a pure character', and Rudolf Steiner suggested that Lavender has 'a stabilizing effect on the physical, etheric and astral bodies'.
Warnings: Avoided in pregnancy: may be used in labour.
The oil should not be taken internally but can be inhaled, rubbed on the skin or used in baths. Stop if local skin irritation occurs, or dilute with carrier oil.
Excess may cause sleeplessness or nausea.
Laugh at yourself first, before anyone else can.
Elsa Maxwell, September 28, 1958
Valerian is a traditional sedative, widely used in herbal combinations for stress or insomnia. Studies suggest it is most useful when taken over a period of time for chronic sleep disorders. It improves the time needed to get to sleep, and the quality of sleep and relaxation.
Valerian has also shown some promise for helping people sleep better after discontinuing conventional sleeping pills (with supervision).
Several studies suggest that Valerian affects GABA, a brain chemical that balances excitement/anxiety with relaxation. Valerian reduces anxiety and relaxes smooth muscle eg. the muscle of the digestive tract. Those with a nervous digestion may benefit.
In combination with St. John's Wort (above), studies show Valerian is as effective as the tri-cyclic antidepressant Amitryptilene, and more effective than Diazepam. Valerian can be taken alone or in combination with other herbs that possess a relaxing effect, such as passionflower, or hops.
Research suggests that Valerian does not impair driving ability, nor produce morning drowsiness, when it is taken at night. But please take care if you are using it. Valerian does not lead to addiction or dependency. There are no known reasons to avoid Valerian during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Valerian can be used in small amounts for children over 3, but only under professional supervision.
Warnings: Some individuals may experience nausea, light-headedness or even a slight stimulant effect. Reduce dose.
May have an additive effect when combined with barbiturates (e.g., pentobarbital) and benzodiazepines (eg. Valium, sleeping pills). may enhance the effects of drugs for high blood pressure or asthma.
Avoid with alcohol.
Valerian should be stopped about one week before surgery because it may interact with anaesthesia .
There are no known reasons to avoid Valerian during pregnancy or breastfeeding.
Valerian can be used in small amounts for children over 3.
Jumping girl courtesy of Bigfoto.com
Vitamin B Complex
B Complex contains all the different B vitamins, which work best in combination. B vitamins are especially helpful in maintaining healthy homocysteine levels, and essential for stress, energy and depression.
HOMOCYSTEINE is a normal amino acid, but toxic when it is not neutralised. It is a major risk factor for depression, Alzheimer’s and heart disease. When we lack what are called methyl groups in our diet, we cannot neutralise homocysteine properly. A typical Western diet tends to be low in methyl groups, leading to excess homocysteine.
B vitamins provide methyl groups.
Under conditions of stress or disease, we need more methyl groups. Stress makes our adrenal glands work hard (producing adrenalin), and weakens our nerves and immune system. Methyl groups are essential for all these. This is why stress is so bad for our health, and why B vitamins are so good for stress!
Vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid, are among the best for providing methyl groups.
Vitamin B5 is especially good for stress because it supports and activates the adrenal glands, which make adrenalin.
B-vitamins also provide the ingredients our bodies need to produce neurotransmitters, brain chemicals which influence mood.
Some B vitamins are depleted by alcohol, the drug metformin, or oral contraceptives, so you may benefit from taking extra.
Warnings: caution in epilepsy.
causes harmless yellow discoloration of urine.
high doses of vitamin B3 may cause harmless facial flushing.
avoid with cataract.
Supplements: a good B complex with added vitamin C is a helpful stress combination. Added B5 is especially good for stress.
Vitamin B6 is one of the B-Complex vitamins. It is critical in maintaining both hormone balance, and levels of neurotransmitters, brain chemicals involved in depression, anxiety and perception of pain (serotonin and GABA).
B6 also raises cellular magnesium levels which helps lift depression. Both B6 and Magnesium are often indicated in PMS, where irritability, mood swings or anxiety are involved. Magnesium and B6 are often combined in supplements.
Oral contraceptives may deplete B6, so a supplement may be helpful.
B6 reduces homocysteine (see B-complex, above), and so may be beneficial to heart health and Alzheimers disease, as well as depression.
Warnings: Do not take high doses (100mg+ day) without guidance, and not if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Another of the B-Complex vitamins especially useful in anxiety and depression. B12 works by assisting production of neurotransmitters, chemicals involved in elevating mood (dopamine and serotonin). It also helps lower homocysteine (see B-complex, above) so may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, many elderly people are deficient in B12, as their stomachs may have trouble absorbing the small amounts in food.
B12 may also help people whose sleep rhythms are disturbed. This can happen in depression, SAD syndrome, shift work and jet-lag. B12 works by improving the production of melatonin, the hormone we naturally secrete during sleep/darkness. See also St. John’s Wort under Herbs.
Vegans may lack B12.
vitamin B12 – none.
B Complex – avoid with cataracts.
high doses of vitamin B3 may cause harmless facial flushing.
rarely can lead to upset stomach – reduce dose.
caution in epilepsy.
Supplements: I recommend taking B12 in a B Complex. Also available as sub-lingual powder and in vegan formulations.
Anger makes you smaller, while forgiveness forces you to grow beyond what you were.
Cherie Carter-Scott, "If Love Is a Game, These Are the Rules"
If you would cure anger, do not feed it. Say to yourself: 'I used to be angry every day; then every other day; now only every third or fourth day.' When you reach thirty days offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the gods.
Epictetus (55 AD - 135 AD)
OTHER NATURAL REMEDIES FOR STRESS AND DEPRESSION
5-HTP and Tryptophan
5-HTP is used by the human body to make serotonin, an important neurotransmitter (brain chemical) for normal nerve and brain function. Serotonin appears to play a significant role in sleep, mood, pain control, and other body functions. Disturbance in emotion, such as depression or anxiety, may be linked to serotonin imbalance in the brain.
The human body manufactures 5-HTP from Tryptophan, a natural amino acid found in most proteins. 5-HTP in supplements is usually obtained derived from Griffonia Simplicifolia, an African medicinal plant.
Migraines are related to abnormal serotonin function in blood vessels, and 5-HTP may help correct this abnormality. Insomnia has been associated with Tryptophan deficiency in the brain; 5-HTP may provide a remedy for this condition. People with fibromyalgia also often have low serotonin. 5-HTP and Tryptophan may be taken at night for insomnia, or regularly through the day for help with mood.
Warnings: pregnant or breastfeeding, use only under supervision.
rarely can lead to upset stomach – reduce dose.
Take care if you are driving or operating machinery, may cause drowsiness.
5-HTP should not be taken with:
antidepressants, weight-control drugs, other serotonin-modifying agents, or substances known to cause liver damage, because in these cases 5-HTP may have excessive effects.
People with liver disease may not be able to regulate 5-HTP adequately.
Those with autoimmune diseases may be more sensitive to 5-HTP; consult a healthcare professional. Safety in pregnancy and breast-feeding is not known.
Can cause drowsiness.
Avoid with the following: Carbidopa, Carbidopa/Levodopa, Fenfluramine, Fluoxetine (prozac), Fluvoxamine, Paroxetine, Sertraline, Sibutramine, Sumatriptan, Tramadol, Venlafaxine, Zolmitriptan, Zolpidem (Note: this list only includes the generic or class name of a medicine—for brand names, consult your doctor or pharmacist.).
Start with a low dose.
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