Supplements for Depression

Updated on December 09, 2010
A.U. asks from Allen Park, MI
20 answers

Hi. I'm wondering if anyone has found any non-prescription supplements that work well in treating moderate depression ? I've read about a few different supplements online that are suppose to work (like st johns wart, SAMe, Tryptophan, Gaba and even folic acid). So what really works? Is there a supplement out there that might combine some of these things?
I'm not asking this one for myself its for my husband, he has suffered from mild depression for years, but lately with more issues at work, etc its been worse. I'm looking for something to help him without taking a prescription.
Thanks for your help!

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answers from Chicago on

Exercising for 30 minutes 3x a week has been proven to be as effective as anti-depressants for mild and moderate cases of depression.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

For this it is a person by person thing what may work on one person doesn't always work on aonther I found that St Johns wart works the best I have tried them all. I buy the walmart brand for this anything else I go to GNC for. For me two pills a day works pretty well 6 like they suggest works great but I dont always remember to take them three times a day. Good luck.

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answers from Alexandria on

First and foremost diet and exercise will make a huge impact. When times are stressful it is so crucial to to eat well and exercise regularly.

That being said, the supplements I recommend most often for depression are the following:

Omega-3: do NOT buy this in a fish oil. Buy it in a krill oil pill only. No worries about purity or mercury toxicity, and it is much more potent.

5-HTP: This is a form of tryptophan. It helps your body to produce serotonin naturally. When a person is suffering from true physiological depression it is because their seratonin levels are low.

I have said many times, and I will say it many more; when it comes to supplements you get what you pay for. This is one of the few times in life that it is necessary to spend more and buy good brands. Do not go to your local drug store and pick up a $5 bottle of synthetic pills. Your body won't break them down and absorb them.

A brand I know and trust is Pure Encapsulations. It is not sold in stores. You have to get it "prescribed" by a chiropractor or nutritionist. However, you can purchase it online.
There are other great brands out there as well, but you won't find them at GNC, the vitamin shoppe or any other big name retail store. See a person who specializes in natural remedies or shop online.

Last note. As a psychologist, my personal belief is that prescription psychotropic medications should be a last option only to be used in extreme cases or when you've tried and failed with all the other options. That being said, if your husband tries supplements, eats a balanced diet, etc, and he is still not able to come out of this "depression" then it is time to get him to the doctor.

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answers from Philadelphia on

Sometimes stress and depression can go hand in hand. I started working out recently and that really seems to be a mood elevator. I also started eating better too. I am sleeping better and in general feel better. Now,when I am stressed instead of having a drink, I work out for 30-60 minutes. Working out relieves stress and releases the endorphins in your brain. That is like a natural anti-depressant. I hope he feels better soon.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

There are been numerous credible studies that omega fatty acids help with mild mental illness, including depression. Fish oil is a good source, as is avocado and walnuts.

Exercise/physical activity can be very helpful. A good diet is also very helpful, but if you have to choose, the exercise is probably more important (imo).

Activities like yoga, meditation, and tai chi/martial arts can be very helpful. I have a friend who "self-medicated" with martial arts, and he was on his way down a dark path (he didn't start the martial arts as a means of improving his mental health--it was just a happy side effect for him).

But if you continue to struggle with this, don't hesitate to get professional help. You might start with counseling (if you don't want to be psycho-analysed, try a cognitive behavior therapist instead). If that doesn't help, do get psychiatric help if needed. There is no failing in needing help, but only in not getting it if you know you need it... :) Hugs.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boise on


When you heal the body, you heal the broken brain. I have depression my whole life. I am now 42 years old, and now I am functioning normal without drugs for depression. So, I am glad you were looking at the natural routes. I actually worked with traditional mainstream medicine for my depression and was nearly committed suicide due to the side effects. Now, I do everything natural.

Here is a couple video clips to help:
How to Get "Unstuck" from Depression

Why Antidepressants Do Not Work for Treating Depression

It is really helpful to figure out the reasons for your husband's depression. Some people can solve the problem that bothers them and the depression goes away. Some people however, need to have additional help to help address issues with overall health and get rid of the depression. With me, it is the second kind. And here is what I did:

Take Omega III FISH OIL. The EPA and DHA is brain food. This has the highest amount of DHA and EPA without a doctor's prescription. This is the purest Fish oil you can find. Yes, purity absolutely matter. You do not want to put mercury and Lead and PCBs in your body.

Take OPC-3, it is an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation. There is research comparing the brain, depression is the silent inflammation of the brain. OPC reduces and stops inflammation.

Calcium plus: Help me sleep better because of the magnesium. When I sleep better, and have a regular schedule. That is what helped me.

From being on the verge of commuting suicide to getting back to normal took me 2 weeks. These three product did wonder for me.

Once you get him out of depression, it is important to get him to do good cardio exercises for minimum 20-30 minutes daily. That helps the body releases endorphin. When I was depressed, exercises actually makes me more depressed. So, do not push him. Get him out of the funk first, and then do the rest.

If you need more help, send me a private message.

Shi Y.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Hi A.,
Shaklee makes some great supplements that help with depression: OmegaGuard, B complex, Moodlift. I can also send you more info. Let me know if you are interested.
Exercise and eating properly also help greatly.
Good luck and God bless,

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Lansing on


Diane M.'s suggestions are right on the mark. I suffered from severe postpartum depression just after our son was born 9 years ago. I was put on medication and the meds gave me the blue sky I needed to work on re-patterning my brain.

Basically re-patterning is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. The patient and and doctor work together to find the thought patterns that are causing mental damage and develop a plan to neutralize those thought patterns. The patient works on shunting the bad thoughts down a different neural pathway that ends in either neutral or positive thoughts rather than negative ones. It is hard and takes work, but worth it in the end.

Be careful with herbal supplements. Always talk with a pharmacist about possible interactions between the herbs and any other meds your husband may be taking. For example, I take an antihistamine to control my allergy induced asthma. I have to wait a number of hours before I can take my Vitamin D pill or it will interfere with the antihistamine and I will suffer from allergy symptoms.

Does your husband suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)? He may be Vitamin D deficient. Taking a vitamin D supplement can do wonders for those who suffer from SAD. Also, replacing many of your light bulbs with full spectrum bulbs can help with some of the symptoms. There are now energy efficient bulbs on the market that produce full spectrum light.

Good luck and I hope your husband starts to feel better soon.

C. J.



answers from Washington DC on

I'm a fan of the following combo...
High dose Omega 3 Fish Oil (3-4 caps a day) out for the blood thinning effects though if there are issues...
B50 Complex
good quality multivit
Vitamin D3 (2000 iu daily)
Kira brand St. John's Wort
and consider Zinc
Also, be sure he gets his testosterone/DHEA level tested and if low, consider a DHEA supplement.



answers from San Francisco on

Hi A.
I answered a similar question a while back so I PASTED it for you .
I work in the caring profession and have been an advocate for years to always try the natural route first for mental health issues.
Saint Johns Wort is a natural replacement to medication but with everything you should do the research first before taking it.
Also having a set routine each day is good,a list of things that he needs to do to keep himself healthy-having a shower in the morning,good breakfast etc.
Fresh air and exercise are good.Healthy organic food.Limited alcohol.
It is advisable the your husband gets to know his depression and be proactive with how to live with it.
The two of you could figure out what( 1.)what life looks like when his depression is at bay. ( 2.)what are the warning signs when things are starting to go wrong. (3) what needs to happen when he is in the depression,have a plan in place.Ask your husband what support does he need and what way can it be provided.Sort this plan when he is having a good day.
(4) what are the situations and life events that he thinks will trigger a bout of depression. Can the situation be avoided or can he prepare himself mentally when he is going into a situated that will stress him.
Education is the key, the two of you should be become experts in your husbands depression.
I was at a brilliant conference a few years ago with Stephen Pockington from the Mary Copeland foundation for people with mental illness.They are advocates for the natural way so maybe you could check it out.
If your husband was willing to give it a go,yoga and meditation are very good for a healthy mind and body.
Best of luck

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answers from Philadelphia on

I've never been officially diagnosed with depression, but I do find myself sad and uncaring for months at a time (usually from November through March - maybe I have Seasonal Affective Disorder...). I used to spend those months getting the kids off to school, then crawling back into bed and spending the day ignoring my life, then put on a happy face for the kids when they get home, but not actually FEELING happy. I was a great actor. What I do NOW is this: I take vitamin D3, 200mg of 5-HTP, Zinc, DHA and Calcium supplements. And I exercise everyday, even if it's only for 20 minutes (this part is absolutely crucial). And I've really tried to eliminate most junk food from my diet (trust me, I still eat some junk, but far, far less than I used to). This combination has virtually eliminated any sad feelings I have. The reason I know this works for me is that sometimes I feel so great and I start slacking. Within a couple of days, I start to feel down again. Once I start up my regimen again, I feel better within a couple of days. I started this regimen under the care of a naturopath, so I didn't jump in blind. And all the supplements I take are the highest quality, no picking what's on sale off the shelf at some store. This combination MIGHT work for your husband, but really there's no telling what will, if anything. I would have him start with the will be super difficult to start if he doesn't already work out, but he will start to feel so much better within even just a couple of weeks. Really, really encourage him to get exercise. Then take it from there and maybe try a supplement or two. Good luck!



answers from Detroit on

Please don't mess with online medications, especially supplements. You never know what is in them & if its a reputable company. Many supplements DO NOT use pharmacy grade ingredients. Please see a doctor. Maybe it is not depression but a hormonal imbalance or other underlying issue that is causing this. PLEASE do not try to treat him yourself. There are many doctors who use natural holistic remedies from reputable sources.



answers from Detroit on

Hi A.---'Depression' is a very loaded issue. So it's likely hard that any one thing will overcome it. Here is what I understand, based on comments and advice from a Naturopath who has her PhD in Nutrition.

Diet is extremely important, not only to get enough of the proper foods, mostly fruits and veggies, whole grains, beans/legumes, nuts and seeds. Be careful to not eat too much animal protein as it leads to all kinds of disease processes ( Be sure you are not eating negative ingredients such as HFCS, MSG, artificial colors, sweeteners or ANY chemical preservative. I know that our gov't says that any one of these is 'generally regarded as safe' but who knows what the combination of them can do in a vulnerable body.

Research shows that exercise is just as effective as medications in treating depression. I agree with omega 3 fats, however, fish oil is not the only source. I highly recommend eating ground flax. Flax seeds are an excellent source of omega 3's. They also contain lots of fiber, protein, several important vitamins and minerals and there are compounds called lignans that are anti-cancer. Flax is best ground as you use it. Otherwise the oils start to oxidize and lose their effectiveness. Having said that, I usualy grind 2-3 days worth at a time. You can use flax in cereal, pancakes and muffins, smoothies or sprinkle in on salads for a slighly nutty flavor. Get a Bullet blender or another type of individual blender to grind flax and make everyone in the house their favorite smoothie.

I also recommend 5 HTP. It helps for sleep and mood issues. Also, it is thought that most people are vitamin D deficient and you all might benefit from taking extra D. There is NEW news that suggests most people get enough through fortified foods, but I'm not so sure, based on the health care professionals that I work with. I think it would be safe to be sure you are getting at least 1000 iu's a day.

Dr Pam shares that the biggest issue with 'depression' is to find a way to stop the 'stinking thinking'. Sit down and make a list of reasons why he feels depressed then make another list of things that he is thankful for. Having an attitude of gratitude goes a LONG way toward a more happy life. Take that list of negative things and then make a plan of what to do to change the situation. Dr. Pam also recommends Cognative Behavioral Therapy. Works far better than drugs. Again, even depression drugs, work on SYMPTOMS, not the source of the problem. CBT works on the source of 'stinking thinking'.

I also recommend a high quality whole food based supplement, because our food does not contain the nutrition needed for optimal health and disease prevention. I can share info on one made of 17 different fruits and veggies, backed by numerous independent studies showing immune system support, DNA protection and repair (anti-cancer/aging), cardiovascular improvment as well as several other markers of good health.

For the most part, Dr. Pam does not recommend supplementation as it is not needed with an optimal diet. That does not mean that some people are not deficient and supplementation to get levels to where they need to be. But this is only needed on a temporary basis and supplements should only be taken after testing. Dr. Pam does recommend the whole food supplement that I do, however. Again, in today's world, most people can't, won't or don't eat enough fruits and veggies.

Hope this helps. Feel free to contact me if you have any additional questions. I have articles and studies to share to support these comments. Good luck...and keep reminding your husband that the 'glass is half-full'. He has much to be thankful for. Be well...D.



answers from Detroit on

I actually stopped taking my prescription and started taking a product called Bliss years ago and love it. No sad side effects either. That is what prompted me to make the switch. Now my mom takes it too and swears by it! It is an anti-stress/anti-anxiety formula that is taken as needed and is made from herbs, etc.

Check it out here:

Or ask me, I am a distributor. Many people who post solutions won't let you know that. My integrity is everything to me.




answers from Atlanta on

First, I think it's important to know if your husband has been officially diagnosed with mild depression, or if you are self-diagnosing. If he hasn't had a full work-up by a board certified physician, then there may be pieces to the puzzle that you are missing and it could be something else, entirely. That being said, if he has been formally diagnosed with mild depression, I definitely agree that exercise is fabulous for that.



answers from Detroit on

I would definitely recommend he at least consult with a doctor regarding his symptoms. Rx meds might not be the answer for him (maybe working with his doctor to modify his diet and increase his exercise and self-monitoring his symptoms by daily journaling would work or maybe it's a medical issue, like high or low thyroid?), but self treating can be a slippery slope. The natural supplements are not approved by the FDA, and contain different amounts of the supplement in each capsule -- which doesn't regulate the brain chemicals in the right way.

Additionally, is there a way he can speak to a professional about his depression? A psychiatrist, MD, NP, or even his Employee Assistance Program (EAP) at work? Both my husband and BIL have found this type of help invaluable. It was tough for both of them to admit, but once they did seek help, they were able to work through some stress and anxiety, and were much better able to cope with things along the way.

I hope your husband finds what works for him, and your family can find peace!


answers from Boston on

First of all, do not take a supplement that is just one ingredient, or just a couple! People get into a lot of trouble doing that! There is a lot of hype about this one or that one, but it's usually not effective. Nutrients are made to be taken in combination, and when we get out of balance, we start to have problems (could be depression, could be digestive issues, allergies, illnesses, and so on). I have had phenomenal results with my depression by using a balanced supplement with a full battery of ingredients, and I also no longer get sick. No colds, no flu, no bronchitis (which I used to get constantly). I found a great company called Reliv International which makes its own supplements (unheard of in the nutrition industry, practically) and which has received many patents (also rare). Patents are on formulations, not on an ingredient or two. It's liquid nutrition which is key for absorption so you get a lot of bang for your buck. (By comparison, most vitamins and other pills are absorbed about 20-30% so most of it is wasted.

I've tried many prescriptions and many supplements over the years, both over the counter and on the advice of a chiropractor. This is the first and only thing that has worked. My body is back in balance, and my depression is much better. My doctor has helped me get off my medications, and she is thrilled. So is my husband's doctor. Reliv gives great customer support - they don't just sell you the product and leave you on your own, which is what happens when you buy something off a store shelf. I've also received years of training from Reliv so that I can help others, and it's a great thing to be able to do! I would be happy to chat with you more to help you and your husband. Reliv has had a perfect "surprise" FDA inspection (not one thing put on a checklist to change or improve), its products carry no warning labels like most supplements (not required to - everything is pure food), and the company has been honored many times for its humanitarian efforts and business ethics. It's also one of only 2 supplement companies that has earned a place on the Council for Responsible Nutrition, and Reliv's chief scientific officer and head researcher sits on the board of directors for both national and international standards.

Any company can have a really pretty website but that doesn't make them a good company. You need a company that will work with you and that offers a money-back guarantee. That's Reliv.



answers from Boise on

My hairdresser swears by SAMe, she said that it just balances everything out. It is available at Costco too, so it may make sense financially to try it.



answers from Detroit on

All the herbal and supplemental things you mentioned can work, they work differently on different people. One thing you might try too is NO SUGAR. Your husband might be really sensetive to the effects and not really know it. Our culture is SO inundated with all the "-oses" that we don't even realize the effects because it actually feels normal to have a sugar "high" going most of the time.....unfortunately those highs produce a sugar "low". Check your labels for the "oses", be careful of carbs (they turn into sugar) load him up with lots of veggies, limit caffiene. I feel sure you will see and he will feel a difference. Hard to do at this ime of year, but at the same time depression seems to hit harder this time of year. All the best, I hope this helps!



answers from Washington DC on

SAMe is the way to go. By taking SAMe, you are not adding anything to your body that it doesn't already produce. Typically, people with depression are deficient in what SAMe actually is and that is why it helps with mood. SAMe was originally discovered and made for people with arthritis. After a while, the doctors/scientists started to notice a difference in the subjects disposition while they were testing it and eventually found that it could help with mild depression. If you go to the website or google it, you can find all the information about it and why it hasn't been approved by the FDA and it isn't because it isn't safe. It really is great. The only side effect is that it strengthens your bones! How's that for a homeopathic?

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