Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Science Behind Natural Herbs and Supplements for Depression

Numerous studies from leading scientific organizations, including Harvard, Duke, University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Toronto, have shown that natural nutritional supplements can be used to treat a host of physical and psychological ailments. Among these are depression, anxiety, obesity, bipolar disorder, insomnia, schizophrenia, hypertension, Alzheimer's, ADD/ADHD, arthritis, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, fibromyalgia, fatigue, headaches and more.

Here are some key nutrients that have been proven to reverse the effects of depression.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3s strengthen the immune system and produce chemicals in our body that help to alleviate inflammation. These fatty acids have been shown to protect us from many major health threats, such as stroke, heart disease, and arthritis. In addition, they aid in fighting depression, hypertension, Alzheimer's disease, and ADD/ADHD.

A Harvard pilot study found that fish oil, found in krill oil, tuna, salmon, and mackerel, can be used to effectively treat depression and bipolar disorder. Another study of 70 depressed patients who had not responded to other treatments found that the group who took one gram of fish oil produced dramatically better results than the placebo. Omega-3s can also be found in nuts such as walnuts and many fruits and vegetables.


Chromium has been shown to be effective in treating depression, lowering blood sugar levels, reducing insulin resistance and helping to control weight gain. This essential mineral plays a primary role in the body's ability to burn sugars, carbohydrates, fats and proteins to produce energy. Chromium has been shown to reduce appetite and contribute to weight loss.

Scientists at Duke University have found that taking chromium supplements reduces symptoms of atypical depression, and reduces carbohydrate cravings. Researchers at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill School of Medicine say that chromium picolinate can relieve depression in overweight people with a background of overeating.

Chromium deficiency contributes to depression, anxiety, fatigue, and unhealthy blood pressure levels. The average American diet is chromium deficient, due to modern agricultural practices. Only one in ten Americans have adequate amounts of chromium in their diet.


SAMe is a substance created naturally in the body from amino acids. As a supplement, it is widely used in Europe to treat depression, arthritis, and other ailments.

SAMe (S-adenosylmethionin) can help people who suffer from depression, and don't respond to prescription treatments, according to a Harvard study. Another study published in BioMed Central Psychiatry found that SAMe significantly decreased symptoms of depression in HIV/AIDS patients over an 8 week period.

In addition to its effectiveness in fighting depression, research shows that SAMe is beneficial for joints and connective tissue, helps with arthritis and fibromyalgia, promotes liver health, protects against cardiovascular disease, and helps to slow the aging process.


Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in the digestive tract. They aid in the digestive process, and new research shows that they can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety.

A colon cleanse incorporating probiotics will clear the body of stagnant waste built up in the colon, restore your immune system, and greatly increase your ability to absorb nutrients. To get the maximum benefit, you need a probiotic supplement that contains more than 50 billion viable organisms, consisting of ten different bacterial strains.

A University of Toronto study found that a two-month probiotics regime boosted chronic fatigue symptoms and reduced depression and anxiety symptoms. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and M.D. Anderson Cancer Center found that probiotics slow the growth of certain cancerous tumors.

As far back as the late 1800's, researchers like Nobel Prize-winning scientist Elie Metchnikoff began to acknowledge the importance of microorganisms in the gut and their relation to everything from digestion to immune health. Since then, countless scientists have succeeded in confirming Metchnikoff's theories and developing new ways to effectively introduce beneficial microorganisms into the human body.

You can find probiotics in a variety of fermented or cultured foods, such as cheese, yogurt, buttermilk, sauerkraut, kefir, tempeh, and miso.


Tyrosine is amino acid which helps to produce adrenaline and dopamine, neurotransmitters responsible for regulating your mood. Inadequate levels of tyrosine in the body can result in depression.

Tyrosine is important to overall metabolic health. It is a mood elevator, and can be taken in supplement form to fight depression, anxiety, stress, and chronic fatigue. Tyrosine is an antioxidant and appetite suppressant as well.

One study involving two depressed patients who didn't respond to antidepressants found that l-Tyrosine significantly reduced their depression. Another study involving one woman with a two-year history of depression concluded that she showed marked improvement from l-tyrosine treatment, with no visible side effects.


GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid) is an amino acid created naturally in the brain. It is involved with motor function, vision, and other basic brain activities. GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, and its main function is to block stress-causing hormones like cortisol. GABA is also involved in the production of endorphins. Endorphins cause what is known as "runner's high," the feeling of calm and mental alertness you get during physical exercise.

GABA reduces stress, anxiety, and depression, relieves muscle tension, reverses Alzheimer's disease, promotes weight loss, and helps you get a good night's sleep. A deficiency of GABA may cause anxiety, stress, depression and nervousness, according to some studies. Doctors have recommended taking GABA in 200 mg doses three to four times daily, on an empty stomach.


5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) is an amino acid involved in the production of serotonin in the brain. A great deal of evidence suggests that taking 5-HTP can improve the symptoms of atypical depression. 5-HTP is often very effective on patients who are unresponsive to pharmaceutical antidepressants. In fact, several small studies have found that 5-HTP is equal to or better than pharmaceutical antidepressants in treating depression and anxiety.

5-HTP has been found to help with conditions associated with low serotonin levels, including depression, obesity, carbohydrate craving, insomnia, and fibromyalgia. It has been used to treat migraine headaches and promote weight loss as well.

L-Glutamine/ Glutamic Acid

Glutamine/glutamic acid, along with glucose, is one of the essential fuels for your brain cells. It helps with anxiety and depression, increases mental alertness, normalizes physical equilibrium, detoxifies ammonia from the brain, improves and soothes erratic behavior in elderly patients, improves your ability to learn, aids in retaining and recall in memory, helps with behavioral problems and autism in children, and stops sugar and alcohol cravings. Glutamine may improve IQ in mentally deficient children, enhance peptic ulcer healing, and it may be used to treat schizophrenia and senility.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that just two grams of glutamine taken after a light breakfast produced a 430 percent increase in levels of Human Growth Hormone, which plays a major role in muscle growth by helping synthesize additional proteins in muscle fibers. HGH also helps you burn more fat for energy.


Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid, which increases production of the mood-elevating brain chemicals, dopamine and norepinephrine. Some clinical studies suggests that phenylalanine can be helpful as part of a comprehensive therapy for depression. Phenylalanine can reduce pain and inflammation, aid in memory and learning, and suppress the appetite. Phenylalanine may also help with arthritis, weight loss, menstrual cramps, and schizophrenia.

A study published in the Journal of Neural Transmission concluded that phenylalanine helped with depressed mood, anxiety, and sleep disturbances.



Passionflower can be taken to help with anxiety, insomnia, and stress-related disorders. It is a mild sedative, and helps to lower blood pressure.

According to a 2002 study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics, passionflower was effective in the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder compared to a pharmaceutical anti-anxiety medication.

Passionflower extract is also effective in reducing negative symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, insomnia, as well as emotional and behavioral disturbances.


Skullcap is useful for the strengthening and support provided in times of stress and is a remedy for nervous tension, headaches, agitation, anxiety, insomnia, hysteria, exhaustion and depression.

Skullcap is an antispasmodic which is useful for twitching muscles, trembling, epilepsy and heart palpitations. It useful as an aid when withdrawing from orthodox tranquilizers and antidepressants.

Skullcap has been used in combination with hormonal balancing herbs (such as chaste tree and false unicorn root) for premenstrual syndrome. As an anti-inflammatory, it can be used for arthritis particularly where the condition is aggravated by stress. Skullcap is useful in reducing fevers, enhancing digestion and stimulating the liver's function.


Bilberry helps to control insulin levels, and is useful for stress, hypoglycemia, anxiety, and macular degeneration. Bilberry is used for chronic fatigue syndrome, hemorrhoids, diabetes, osteoarthritis, gout, skin infections, gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, kidney disease, and urinary tract infections (UTIs). It is also an effective antioxidant and diuretic.

Green Tea

Green tea is a powerful antioxidant, helping to protect against cancer, lower cholesterol, and regulate blood sugar. Recent research suggests that green tea may be an effective weight loss aid.

The antioxidants in green tea have been shown to boost immune system function, fight the signs of aging, support a healthy brain and liver, and aid in digestion.


Catnip is a member of the mint family. It is used as a treatment for anxiety, nervousness and sleeplessness. Throughout history, this herb has been used to produce a sedative effect. Traditional herbalists have used catnip to treat conditions like cancer, toothache and corns.


Chamomile is used to stimulate the appetite, reduce inflammation, and aid in digestion and sleep.

According to a study conducted by the University of Pennsylvania, chamomile treatment using a natural chamomile extract significantly reduces the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

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