Depression is a frequently occurring grave emotional disorder affecting more than 19 million Americans every year. It’s a state of mind that goes far beyond temporal blues. It tends to affect one’s thoughts, feelings, behavior, mood, and physical health. In fact, it lingers, interferes with every sphere of life, and affects the quality of life of the person and people around them.
Signs of depression can range from mild to severe. Common symptoms that a depressed person experiences are feelings of sadness, irritation, anxious, dejection, deep sense of loss, low energy, disinterest in everything including favorite activities, mental trauma, overeating, loss of appetite, lack of sex drive, suicidal thoughts, and disturbed sleep.
This brain disorder can make life very distressing. Some types of depression occur under special circumstances. They are persistent depression, postpartum depression, psychotic depression, and seasonal affective disorder (1).
There are many factors that contribute to depression, including biological, environmental, and psychological. Researchers now believe a person can have a genetic predisposition to depression—a reason why it tends to run in certain families. People of all ages are prone to depression. Even alterations in brain chemistry can lead to depression.
Other contributing factors include anxiety, tension, mental stress, low self-esteem, childhood abuse, neglect, chronic illness, drug addiction as well as deficiencies of vitamin B-complex and omega-3 fatty acids. Also, women are 70 percent more likely to have depression than men. Stressful life events can also lead to depression.
But everything about depression need not be depressing! There is still hope–depression is one of the most treatable mental diseases. Around 80-90% people with depression recover well with treatment and proper support.
Changes in lifestyle, medication and talking therapies all form a part of this treatment. Depression is a serious problem that if left untreated can be debilitating. There are many types of therapies and medications for depression.
Along with these, you can try some simple, natural home remedies to help lift your mood and restore your excitement for life.
1. St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort is a popular herbal treatment for mild to moderate depression. It is a herb that is native to Europe, West Asia, and North Africa. In Europe, people often use it to treat depression however it is not approved by the FDA for the treating depression. It has chemical constituents like hypericin and hyperforin that work like antidepressants, blocking re-uptake of serotonin and serotonin receptors (2).
Like several antidepressants, it enhances the levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a feel-good factor which is discovered to be low in people with depression. Earlier many studies have shown that St John’s wort is effective. A study published in 2008, reviewing the activity of St John’s wort extracts for the treatment of depression demonstrated that it was considerably effective against major depression in comparison to a placebo used (3).
A systematic review done in 2016 of 35 studies that investigated around 6993 patients concluded that therapy exclusively with St John’s wort for depression was superior to that of placebo in improving depression symptoms and comparable to antidepressants. The adverse effects due to treatment with St John’s wort was less than that of the standard antidepressants and comparable to the placebo (4).
However, researchers suggest using caution as there are conflicting reports and more studies need to be carried out to establish its effectiveness and safety.
- Add one or two tablespoons of dried St. John’s wort to a cup of hot water and let it steep for 10 minutes. Strain and drink this tea twice daily. Follow this routine regularly to lift your mood.
- Alternatively, you can take 300 milligrams of St. John’s wort supplement three times a day.
Consult a doctor before beginning regular use of St. John’s wort. Do not take with Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) medications. It can interact with the activity of birth control pills, cyclosporine, digoxin, cancer medications, warfarin, HIV drugs, etc. It can also cause dizziness, indigestion, headaches, dizziness, dry mouth, etc.
Cardamom is an aromatic spice that can help detoxify the body and rejuvenate the cells, in turn helping improve your mood and treat depression. In addition to its use as a flavoring in food, this “queen of spices” has been used popularly for helping digestion, reducing fat, mouth freshener, perfume, etc.
Cardamom has been used in traditional medicine both in India and South Asia for treating depression, nausea, vomiting, dysentery, diarrhea, certain heart disorders, etc. The extracts prepared from cardamom seeds are used in various herbal medicines to treat dementia, anxiety, tension, and insomnia (5).
The major active compounds in cardamom are cineole, pinene, limonene, methyl eugenol, etc. (6). Cardamom extract has been demonstrated to enhance the memory and learning in animal models in a recent study published in 2018 (7).
- Add one-half teaspoon of cardamom powder to one cup of warm water or milk. Drink it once daily.
- You can also add a few drops of cardamom oil to your bath water. Soak yourself in this uplifting aroma-filled bath for 30 minutes daily.
Nutmeg works like a brain tonic and helps stimulate your brain, eliminate fatigue and stress, and improve your mood. Studies on nutmeg reveal that it can soothe stomach aches, stop diarrhea, and also help in lowering blood pressure.
It is rich in minerals like copper, calcium, manganese, magnesium, zinc, iron, and phosphorus. It also contains carotene B and crypoxanthin B. Nutmeg oil is mostly constituted by d prinene, d camphen, myristica acid and mymiristin. Nutmeg extract is said to give a boost to the brain by stimulating it. It reduces stress and also improves mental activity (8).
According to a study done in 2006 to investigate the effect of nutmeg seed extract on depression in animal models; nutmeg extracts brought about a considerable reduction in depression symptoms in mice. The antidepressant activity of nutmeg extract was mediated by its interaction with adrenergic, dopaminergic and serotonergic systems (9).
- Mix one-eighth teaspoon or a dash of nutmeg powder in one tablespoon of Indian gooseberry juice.
- Drink this two times daily to calm the mind and relieve depression.
Note: Do not take raw nutmeg in large doses as it has psychoactive effects. It also helps with sleep, so take it before bedtime, and limit daytime use if you do experience this sleep effect.
This highly prized spice not only adds flavor and aroma to your food but also has medicinal benefits. Saffron is high in carotenoids and B vitamins that help increase the levels of serotonin and other chemicals in the brain.
The bioactive constituents of saffron include crocin, crocetin, picrocrocin, and safranal have many health-promoting benefits. It can be used for the prevention or treatment of gastric disorders, heart problems, insulin resistance, depression, insomnia and anxiety (10).
Many studies have investigated the antidepressant activity of saffron and saffron compounds in treating mild to moderate depression both in human subjects and animal models. In fact, a study published in Journal of Ethnopharmacology has found saffron to be as effective as fluoxetine (Prozac) in reducing mild to moderate depression (11).
These studies also stressed the potential of saffron as a natural relatively safe alternative to synthetic antidepressants which are often accompanied by side effects (12).
- Take 15 mg of dried extract of saffron twice daily to fight depression.
- You can also use a little bit of saffron in cooking, milkshakes or smoothies.
Caution: Avoid consuming too much of saffron. Taking doses of more than 10 g of saffron may cause nausea, drowsiness, vomiting, abortion, decreased appetite, uterine bleeding, vertigo, and dizziness.
Cashew nuts are nutrient dense foods. It has a fat content of 46%, which mostly consists of beneficial fats like monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) mostly linoleic and linolenic acids (13).
Being rich in vitamin C, cashew nuts stimulate the nervous system. Also, the riboflavin in cashews boosts energy so you can be active and joyful. Other useful nutrients in cashews that help combat depression are magnesium, tryptophan, and vitamin B6.
Potassium is the most abundant mineral in cashews. They also contain calcium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, and sodium (14). Tree nuts like cashews are also reported to be good for mental health. A diet supplemented with nuts reduces the risk of depression (15).
- Add one teaspoon of cashew nut powder to one cup of warm milk. Drink it once daily.
- You can also eat a handful of dry roasted cashews as a healthy snack to lift your mood.
- You can also drink cashew milk, available at most grocers, or turn it into a beverage of your choice. It makes great hot cocoa – just use a mug of cashew milk, heat, and add in 1 tsp to 1 tbsp cocoa or raw cacao powder. Cocoa also improves mood!
6. Fish Oil
Studies have found that people with depression usually have a low intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are required for normal brain functioning, and is highly recommended for people with depression.
People with depression have been shown to have considerably low levels of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in comparison to healthy individuals. Clinical depression is reported to be negatively related to the intake of omega-3 fatty acids in a study published in 1996 (16).
- Take a daily supplement of fish oil to fight depression. Fish oil supplements are sold in health food stores, drug stores, grocery stores and online. A minimum safe dosage for almost everyone is 1000 mg daily, but for many people, 2000 mg -3000 mg daily is a safe and healthy dose. For post-partum depression or other use, dosages may run much higher; consult your natural health practitioner for advice.
- Alternatively, you can eat cold water fish like salmon, sardines, and anchovies that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Flaxseed and soy products are also good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.