Updated: Dec 30, 2020
Whether you experience seasonal affective disorder as the days get shorter and the nights become longer, or you live with a form of depression year-round, natural supplements and herbal remedies may provide beneficial relief.
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression also known as seasonal depression or winter depression. People with SAD experience shifts in mood and depression-like symptoms that generally occur during the fall and winter months when sunlight hours are fewer.
More than just “the winter blues”, symptoms of SAD can be distressing to debilitating and can interfere with daily life. Symptoms may include: depression most of the day, lost interest in activities, low energy, problems with sleeping, changes in appetite, feeling sluggish or agitated, difficulty concentrating, feeling hopeless or worthless, and frequent thoughts of death or suicide.
About five percent of adults in the U.S. experience SAD, and it is more common among women than men. However, for personal, religious, biological, or medical reasons, some people may choose natural remedies instead of pharmaceutical treatment to address SAD depression symptoms. Fortunately, mild symptoms of depression may be managed with the use of high-quality dietary supplements and natural herbal remedies that can be purchased in grocery stores, some pharmacies, and on-line.
As reported by Harvard Health Publishing and supported by the Mayo Clinic, "researchers found that 42% of Americans overall—and 54% of those with severe depression—reported using some type of complementary therapy in the previous year. It is important to note, however, that supplements and herbs are not FDA-regulated, so quality and ingredients may vary. Any person considering treating symptoms of depression naturally should consult with a clinician before taking a supplement or herbal product to prevent interactions with other medications or complications with other medical conditions.
The neurotransmitters that are significant in understanding and managing symptoms of depression are: serotonin, norepinephrine, GABA, acetylcholine, and dopamine. Each may be increased with one or more of the following natural substances:
L-Methylfolate (B-9/folate): B vitamins are a group of nutrients that play many important roles in your body. However, a deficiency in B-9 (folate) is possibly the most common cause of depression. It is a crucial co-factor in creating neurotransmitters that alleviate depression symptoms. L-Methylfolate is the most absorbable, thus effective, form of B-9. Take it along with B12 and B6 as they biochemically complement each other. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3869616/)
SAMe (S-adenosyl-L-methionine): This natural substance, normally made in abundance in the body, may cause symptoms of depression if deficient. It is one of the main factors in producing neurotransmitters associated with positive mood balance. SAMe, which also requires vitamins B12, B6, and L-Methylfolate, may help restore levels to normal. to be synthesized. (https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/sadenosyllmethionine-same-in-depth)
ALC (Acetyl-L-Carnitine): This nutrient is an excellent brain enhancer and energizer. It stimulates mitochondria to produce more ATP, the body's fuel. It also improves cerebral circulation; mobilizing brain energy and thus improving mood balance. Memory and learning are also enhanced. (https://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2018/07/study-links-depression-to-low-blood-levels-of-acetyl-l-carnitine.html)
St. John's Wort: This supplement is produced from an extract of the plant Hypericum perforatum. It may reduce production of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, and increase levels of the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, thus improving mood.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Fish oil contains two types of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These are most abundant in salmon, sardines, anchovies, and other cold-water fish — or in fish oil capsules. In countries where fish consumption is high, the risk of depression is lower than it is in nations where people eat less fish. Omega-3 fatty acids may help brain cells to communicate more efficiently, or may inhibit inflammation and inhibit release of the stress hormone cortisol. (https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/omega-3-fatty-acids-for-mood-disorders-2018080314414)
In addition to natural supplements and herbal remedies, SAD can be effectively treated with talk therapy, light therapy, or a combination thereof. While symptoms will generally improve on their own with the change of season, symptoms can improve more quickly with comprehensive and holistic treatment. (https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/seasonal-affective-disorder)
(No content on this blog site should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from a doctor or other qualified clinician. If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, call 911, go to the nearest emergency room, or call Crisis Services at 1-844-493-8255.)