Most alternative medicines for depression are herbal remedies that come from plants.
Other supplements can include minerals, manmade vitamins, and animal products such as fish oils. Sometimes people think that if something is naturally occurring, it is automatically safe. However, naturally occurring supplements can be very potent, have side effects and interact with other medicines. Many supplements have a recommended daily intake, which can serve as a guideline. However, it is important to consult a physician before starting any of these treatments and to take the treatments as directed.
What are the most common alternative treatments for depression?
• Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 acids are mainly derived from fish – They are commonly used to prevent heart and joint disease. They are also used in depression. Omega-3 fatty acids have two main components: docosahexaonic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaonic acid (EPA) and there is some evidence that certain ratios of DHA:EPA within the Omega-3 are most effective for treating depression. The pills are often large. Some people find them hard to swallow or find they cause bothersome “fishy” breath or belching. Putting them in the freezer can help with this issue and does not appear to alter the impact of the Omega-3 in the body.
o Common Side effects: blood thinning, low blood pressure, changes in blood sugars and cholesterol.
o Drug interactions with: blood thinning medications
• S-Adenosyl-methionine. S-adenosyl-methionine (SAMe) is another building block of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that impacts mood. SAMe is taken in pill form and is thought to influence the quantity of serotonin in the brain and how it affects different parts of the brain.
o Common Side effects: May trigger mania in people with Bipolar Disorder.
o Drug interactions with: antidepressants; pain killers
• St John's wort. St John’s wort is taken in pill form. It gets its name from St John’s day on the 24th June, which is when the plant starts to flower. For a long time it was thought that a red dye, hypericin, which is produced when the plant is crushed, was responsible for its action. Research now suggests that another ingredient, hyperforin, may produce the antidepressant effect. St John’s wort has also been suggested as a treatment of anxiety, addiction and premenstrual stress.
o Common Side-effects: May increase sun sensitivity; if in doubt use sun screen. May trigger manic episodes in people who have Bipolar Disorder.
o Drug interactions with: antidepressants; pain killers, oral contraceptives, and some cancer drugs.