Antidepressants do not work for everyone and are not without side effects. But there are other ways in depression that you could go first before resorting to powerful projectiles. In addition to a specific dietary supplement, herbal remedies are available for the psyche. Especially in the case of mild to moderate depression, medicinal plants have been shown to have a very good effect on many of those affected.
Relieve depression with medicinal plants
If the diagnosis of depression is made, the treating physicians do not resort to medicinal plants, of course, but usually rather quickly to the prescription pad and prescribe antidepressants. Here we reported on the side effects of antidepressants.
According to the health report of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), more and more people in industrialized countries are taking antidepressants. B. in Germany between 2007 and 2011 by 46 percent. At the same time, a growing body of research indicates that around half of people who take antidepressants never get better. For example, a research team led by Dr. Irving Kirsch of the University of Hull in England found that antidepressants are only effective for the most severe depression.
It should be borne in mind that around 80 percent of affected patients only suffer from mild to moderate depression – and this can also be treated with medicinal plants. Herbal antidepressants have a number of advantages over synthetic drugs:
They are well tolerated, do not become addictive, do not lead to withdrawal symptoms, and do not produce a “hangover” (difficulty concentrating and reacting hours after taking them, often even the next day, which is why driving with some antidepressants can be dangerous). St. John’s wort ranks first among medicinal plants against depression.
St. John’s wort works just as well as antidepressants
St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) was already revered as a medicinal plant in antiquity and was mainly used externally, e.g. B. to treat wounds, gout, or rheumatism. For a long time, it was believed that mental illnesses such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder were caused by demons or the devil himself. In the Middle Ages, it was finally discovered that St. John’s wort also helps with melancholy – as depression was once called -, which is why the medicinal plant was also referred to as an exorcist from the devil.
There are now numerous studies that show that St. John’s wort works against depression (and also with the aforementioned obsessive-compulsive disorders). A group of scientists from the Cochrane Collaboration evaluated 29 studies on St. John’s wort preparations with around 5,500 test persons and found that St. John’s wort extracts not only relieve the symptoms of people with mild to moderate depression more than placebo but also work at least as well like conventional antidepressants and are much better tolerated.
Superficially, the ingredients hypericin, hyperforin, xanthones, and flavonoids are seen as determining the effectiveness. According to scientific studies, the healing effect is due to the regulation of messenger substances such as dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin in the central nervous system.
Since St. John’s wort has to be taken in high doses for depression so that it can develop its full effect, standardized dry extracts in the form of tablets, coated tablets, or capsules are required. A St. John’s wort tea would not work because the dose of active ingredients it contains is too low. Commission E recommends an average daily dose of 2 to 4 g drug (active parts of the plant) or 0.2 to 1.0 mg of total hypericin in other dosage forms. In the case of moderate depression, the dosage should be 900 mg of total extract per day; in the case of mild depressive moods, 300 to 600 mg is sufficient.
Note that the healing effect is not immediate, but delayed over a period of two to four weeks. But this is also the case with most conventional antidepressants. The minimum duration of therapy with St. John’s wort is 3 months, with 6 months being recommended. Keep in mind that St. John’s wort can affect the way other medicines work (e.g. some heart medicines or birth control pills). So if you are taking medication, discuss your planned use of St. John’s wort with your doctor or therapist.
Since St. John’s wort preparations only cover one aspect of the clinical picture (depression), combination therapies are often recommended, which then have a safer and more comprehensive effect. They also take into account the sleep disorders, fears, and restlessness that often occur at the same time.
Combination therapy: St. John’s wort, passion flower, and valerian
The combination of St. John’s wort, valerian (Valeriana officinalis), and passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) is considered a traditional classic in the treatment of depression. In the meantime, scientific studies have also confirmed that such combination therapy is superior to monotherapy.
If the mood-enhancing St. John’s wort is combined with the tension and anxiety-relieving passion flower and/or the calming and sleep-inducing valerian, the intensity of the effect can be significantly increased.
Researchers at the University of Freiburg have compared both the sole administration of St. John’s wort and the combination of St. John’s wort and passion flower with fluvoxamine, an anxiolytic antidepressant. They found that St. John’s wort, much like fluvoxamine, inhibits the reuptake of serotonin and can therefore counteract restlessness, anxiety, and depression.
The inhibition was around 90 percent with fluvoxamine and around 60 percent with the St. John’s wort extract. However, if a passion flower extract was administered in addition to St. John’s wort, the inhibition of serotonin reuptake could be significantly increased.
Further studies have shown that the antidepressant effect of St. John’s wort extract occurs earlier when valerian extract is taken at the same time.
In combination preparations, the daily dose for valerian root is up to 1,500 mg, and for passion flower up to 1,000 mg of dry extract.
Another very effective medicinal plant that can be used for depression and anxiety is kava.
Kava Kava relieves anxiety and depression
Kava Kava (Piper methysticum) – also known as intoxicating pepper – is used as a ceremonial drink and medicinal in many Western Pacific cultures. In traditional medicine, the fresh or dried kava root is chewed or poured with water. It is also common to grind the root into a fine powder or to pound it in a mortar.
In some European countries, all kava preparations were banned around 2002 because the medicinal plant was suspected of damaging the liver. In Germany, however, this ban has now been lifted, and kava is available worldwide as a drug for anxiety, sleep disorders, and depression. Studies had shown that liver damage had been caused by pre-existing illnesses (e.g. alcoholism or damage caused by medication). The new requirements now include prescription requirements or that the maximum daily dose of kavalactone may not exceed 200 mg.
Kavalactones are the substances in the plant that determine its effectiveness. So far, 12 individual kavalactones are known to act on the central nervous system and have a calming, anxiolytic, balancing, and relaxing effect. Even with a very high dosage of 400 or 600 mg per day, the kava active ingredients do not harbor any potential for addiction.
An Australian research team led by Dr. Jerome Sarris from the University of Melbourne conducted a placebo-controlled study over a period of 6 weeks and found that the level of anxiety in those study participants who took 5 daily Kava-Kava tablets (120/240 mg Kavalactone per day) decreased drastically, which was not the case for the placebo group. In addition, it was scientifically proven for the first time that depression can also be alleviated with the help of kava extract.
Kava Kava must also be taken for a longer period of time: After about a week, the symptoms improve, and the maximum effect occurs after 4 weeks.
Another effective herbal alternative to synthetic antidepressants is Rhodiola Rosea, better known as Rhodiola Rosea.
Rhodiola for depression
The roseroot or Rhodiola Rosea loves extreme locations and is native to the mountainous regions of Eurasia and North America and even in the arctic regions. And just as the medicinal plant itself rebels against hostile conditions, it also helps depressed people not to let themselves be defeated.
Even the Vikings took the power-giving plant to their hearts, and roseroot has long been considered an adaptogen in Russian medicine. In alternative medicine, this refers to herbal preparations and drugs that help people to adapt to changing situations, stress and strain. In this sense, Rhodiola increases physical and mental performance as well as resistance and reduces susceptibility to stress.
Rhodiola Rosea is available in Germany in the form of standardized extract preparations (e.g. capsules), which are freely available in stores as dietary supplements.
In the meantime, numerous scientists have also dealt with roseroot. Glycosides, including rosavin, are primarily responsible for the effects.
An Armenian research team from the Armenian State Medical University has investigated whether Rhodiola can be used to treat mild to moderate depression. The subjects included depressed men and women aged 18 to 70 who were divided into three groups. For a period of six weeks, the first group received 340 mg of Rhodiola extract per day, and the second group 680 mg of Rhodiola extract. The third group received a placebo.
The researchers found that the depressive state improved in those study participants who received the extract (regardless of the dose), while the placebo group showed no improvement in symptoms.
The recommended daily dose of Rhodiola is – depending on the preparation – 200 to 600 mg of extract or 20 to 60 drops of tincture 2 to 3 times a day for a period of 4 months.
Unlike Rhodiola, saffron is primarily known today as a golden-yellow spice. Taken in relevant doses, saffron can also work against depression.
Saffron against depression
Even the ancients knew that saffron (Crocus sativus) can do more than give all kinds of food a bright yellow color. For example, the ancient Greeks used saffron to counteract melancholy. The fact that the father of the gods Zeus is said to have slept on a bed made of saffron already indicates how valuable the medicinal plant was considered by our ancestors. Perhaps the myth can also be explained by the fact that even the mighty Zeus was afflicted by depression and sought salvation in saffron.
Saffron has long been used in folk medicine to calm the nerves, but scientific studies have now shown that the world’s most expensive spice actually works against depression. The ingredients include the main active ingredient crocin, which is responsible for inhibiting the reuptake of serotonin and other mood-enhancing messengers such as norepinephrine and dopamine.
Since saffron has also been used in Persian traditional medicine for ages for depression, an Iranian research team led by Dr. Shahin Akhondzadeh from the Tehran University of Medical Sciences took a very close look at the antidepressant effect. A six-week study involved 40 patients suffering from depression. One group received one capsule containing 30 mg of saffron extract per day, the other group received a placebo. The scientists concluded that saffron has a very positive effect on mild and moderate depression, making it an excellent treatment.
Another study from the same university center examined whether saffron could compete with the antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac), which is unfortunately so often prescribed. The study participants were divided into two groups: one received capsules with 30 mg saffron extract per day for 6 weeks, and the other 20 mg fluoxetine. The research found that saffron works just as well as synthetic antidepressants but without causing any harmful side effects.
With regard to the dosage, various information can be found in the specialist literature, 1.5 g of saffron can be taken daily without hesitation. However, when taking the saffron extract, the manufacturer’s recommendations for use should always be followed. The first effects can already appear within a week – but the maximum effect only occurs after about 6 weeks.
A good choice: medicinal plants for depression
The scientific review of the traditional uses of St. John’s wort and Co. prove that the traditional medicinal plants have remarkable potential for the modern treatment of depression. So those who suffer from depression are by no means dependent on synthetic antidepressants to bring joy back into their lives and to heal their souls.
Other measures for depression
Also remember that, in addition to medicinal plants, there are many other things that you can do to enjoy life again: First of all, nutrition has a major influence, which has a concrete effect on the mood and the distribution of messenger substances in the brain. Healthy eating can lift mood, while convenience foods have been shown to depress mood.
In addition, the composition of the intestinal flora can also prevent or prevent depression, which is why the healthy development of the intestinal flora with the help of probiotics is also part of the holistic measures for depression.
5-HTP the precursor to serotonin
You can read here how you can use 5-HTP for depression, but also for migraines or sleep disorders: 5-HTP – effect, side effects, and dosage. 5-HTP is the direct precursor of serotonin, which means that the organism can produce serotonin from it very quickly. In contrast to the usual antidepressants, 5-HTP is a substance of natural origin that is obtained from the African black bean and – when taken and dosed correctly – only rarely shows side effects.