Herbal Antidepressants – An Alternative Approach

This week at Healthy Happy Slim, we’re focusing on wellness tips, in particular, herbal antidepressants.

herbal antidepressantsIt’s a sad fact that over 350 million people around the world are currently suffering from depression. Even though one in five of us will suffer from this debilitating condition at some stage in our lives, most people with mild to moderate depression find herbal antidepressants can be very effective.

The symptoms of depression can be very hard to live with, exhaustion, muscle pain, low libido and lack of sleep to name a few, can send sufferers into what often seems like a never ending downward spiral. Many people have begun turning to herbal antidepressants for relief from some of the symptoms of depression and have found that they do the trick beautifully.

The prescription of orthodox antidepressants has been a huge commercial success, partly due to the fact that drug companies have enormous budgets to help take them to market, but the drugs themselves often have unpleasant and long lasting side effects and don’t work for everyone. Many people carry on taking these drugs for years, without ever really seeming to get well.

Commercial antidepressants like Prozac haven’t been around long, so it’s interesting to contemplate how people treated depression before the rise of Big Pharma. For the sufferer, the battle with depression often becomes a journey in itself, and self help treatments have been shown to play a large part in the recovery process and exploring herbal antidepressants is a good start.

It goes without saying that if you’re taking medication at the moment, we’re not advocating you stop immediately and head straight for the nearest whole food supplier to buy all the products on our list of herbal antidepressants, however, these plant remedies have been tried and tested for hundreds of years, and with the help of a qualified herbalist or naturopath, it is possible to gain relief with the phyto-chemicals nature has to offer. If taken as part of a wellness plan, along with exercise, fresh air, and of course, a healthy diet, herbal antidepressants can go a long way to help battle this difficult condition.

Here are a few of the most commonly prescribed herbal antidepressants;

St. John’s Wort

Herbal antidepressantsSt. John’s wort has long been used by herbalists and naturopaths for treating mild to moderate depression. Studies have shown it to be as effective as standard anti-depressants in helping patients control their symptoms. In comparison to the commonly prescribed SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors,) like Citalopram and Fluoxetine, this herbal antidepressant has few side effects, and is actually prescribed in countries like Germany by medical practitioners as the preferred choice.


Known as the “herb of gladness” you may know borage as starflower oil. Historically it has been used to treat adrenal burnout, a common, but little known cause of depression. In Roman times it was mixed with wine to give soldiers courage before going into battle! Today, it’s known to be a rich source of GLA (gamma linoleic acid,) which is vital for the proper functioning of the nervous and endocrine systems. This may go some way towards explaining its many beneficial properties and is another popular herbal antidepressant.

Lemon Balm

Recent scientific tests are now validating ancient herbal wisdom, and have shown that Lemon Balm or Melissa officinalis is extremely effective in the treatment of anxiety disorders, and improving mood. The wonderful, uplifting aroma is instantly recognisable. It can be taken as a tea, or the essential oil can be diffused into a room to help create a calm and restful ambiance. This herbal antidepressant is often also found in herbal sleep remedies due to its calming effect.

Essential Oils

In fact, inhaling essential oils is one of the simplest ways to use the powerful, therapeutic properties of plants. Once inhaled, the volatile oils stimulate the limbic system, (the part of the brain linked to emotions) causing the brain to release chemicals that make you feel relaxed. As anxiety often plays a part in depression, daily baths, steam inhalations or massage with therapeutic oils such as clary sage, rosemary and bergamot, can instantly improve mood and is another way you can benefit from herbal antidepressants.

Herbal Antidepressants, Could They Work For You?

As with any orthodox medication, it can be a matter of trial and error to discover which herbal antidepressant works for you. Whatever your current situation, all of the above remedies can help to “take the edge” off the symptoms of depression. They can help give you space to deal with any underlying conditions, and go a long way towards helping you achieve greater control over your life. However, if your low mood persists and you’re displaying other more serious symptoms of depression, we can’t stress enough that your first port of call should always be a health care professional. Please note that herbal antidepressants should not be used alongside conventional medications as there can be undesirable interactions.

By Sarah Murphy

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