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There are several vitamins, supplements and herbs you can use for depression. Natural remedies can make a difference in your moods. Most women will require higher levels of nutrients during the menopausal transition. In addition to a healthy diet, vitamins, supplements and herbs can help with depression during menopause. This page also includes discussion about fish oil and Omega 3 for depression.
The importance of a healthy diet cannot be overstated. Most people do not get the required nutrients in their diets today. If you don't believe me, go create a free account at Spark People.com and track what you eat for a few days. The website has a nutrient tracker that will tell you how much you are getting of some nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and potassium. The following vitamins for depression are especially helpful.
B Vitamin Complex
The entire group of B vitamins help with stress, mood and energy. Different B vitamins are found in many foods. The best source of most B vitamins is liver. Meat, milk and eggs also contain Bs. Leafy green vegetables are a source of folic acid, one of the B vitamins. B vitamins are depleted by stress. To get more in your diet, you can supplement with high quality nutritional yeast or rice bran.
Vitamin D is another important vitamin for depression. Most Americans do not get enough Vitamin D and could use a supplement. It is best to get tested and have a health practitioner recommend the amount you should take. Vitamin D is toxic if you take too much, so do not try to do this on your own. I was taking 400IUs and tested very low, so don't think you are getting enough just because you have it in a multivitamin. Whatever you do, avoid synthetic Vitamin D, which has been associated with health risks in studies. Vitamin D3, the non-synthetic, is the only one that supports your health. For more information on this, visit Vitamin D Council
Vitamin E is an important depression vitamin, and most of us do not get enough E through diet. Vitamin E is also important if you eat a lot of polyunsaturated fats (vegetable oils, egg yolks, nuts, seeds and seafood). The more of these fats you eat, the more Vitamin E you need. 400 – 800 IUs is a normal dose. Also, try to get mixed tocotrienals along with mixed tocopherols – this is the best way to get a wide range of the Vitamin E compounds. For a food-based supplement, use wheat germ oil. See my recommended brands below.
Low magnesium levels can contribute to depression and anxiety. This is another mineral that most people don't get enough of. Stress also causes depletion of magnesium, so if your diet isn't extremely nutrient dense (and the vast majority of people do not eat a nutrient dense diet), you may want to supplement with 400mg a day.
Zinc is another good vitamin for depression. A lack of zinc in your body can cause lethargy. Again, many people do not get enough zinc in their diets. Foods high in zinc include oysters, lamb, peanuts, roast beef, sesame seeds and wheat germ.
Fish Oil and Omega 3
In addition to vitamins, cod liver oil, along with healthy fats from grass-fed animals such as butter and cream, can also help with depression. Cod liver oil is preferred over fish oil. Cod liver oil becomes rancid very easily. I only use brands recommended by the Weston A Price foundation, which include, Blue Ice High Vitamin Fermented Cod Liver Oil, Carlson's Softgel 1000mg capsules, NOW double strength capsules, Sonne's and Twinlabs cod liver oil.
5HTP is an amino acid that boosts serotonin in your brain. It is easy to become low in serotonin, which will impact your moods in a negative way. This supplement is fairly inexpensive and can help quite a bit, if low serotonin is an issue for you. Take one or two 50mg capsules between meals one to three times a day. It can also help you sleep.
SAMe is actually S-adenosyl-methionine. It is produced in your brain from the amino acid methionine. It helps produce several neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, melatonin). The normal dose is 200-400mg two to four times a day. There are only a few reliable brands and it is fairly expensive. Recommended brands include Nature Made, Solgar, Life Extension and Nutralife and Jarrow Formulas.
Along with vitamins, there are several herbs that can help with depression. The most well-known is St. John's Wort. Other less well-known herbs that may lift your mood include Blue Vervain, Lavender, Lemon Balm and Eleuthero.
St John's Wort
St. John's Wort is well-known for it's effects on mild depression. The bright yellow flowers are the parts of the plant that are used for depression. Some studies have suggested that St. John's Wort can be as effective as some pharmaceutical medications.
My personal experience with St. John's wort includes collecting the flowers and making them into a tincture and an oil, and taking the powdered herb in a formula with 5-HTP from griffonia seed. It did not take me six weeks to notice the difference, but it might take that long for you, so if you're going to use St. John's wort, you need to give it that long as a trial. For more detailed information on St. John's Wort with cautions and side effects, see St John's Wort
Blue Vervain is an excellent herb for relaxation. It helps with stress as well as helping balance mood and hormones.
Lavender lifts spirits also. If you like lavender, I recommend planting as many as you can around your home. It will lift your spirits when you see it, especially when it is in bloom. Lavender requires plenty of sun and not too much water, so it grows well in the western United States where I live. There are many different types of lavender plants and they all look a bit different.
Lemon balm improves mood. I love the smell of lemon balm, and it makes a very tasty tea. Lemon balm grows like a weed, so it would be easy to buy the plant and grow your own herbal treatment for depression.
Stress can contribute to depression because intense stress or long-term stress will put your body into an exhausted state. Be sure you are getting plenty of vitamins, especially the B complex.
One herb that can help with stress is Eleuthero. For more about this herb and other herbs for stress, see Stress and Menopause