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Herbal Antidepressants


Many herbal antidepressants are available on the Internet, but only a few have actually been proven to effectively relieve depression. Most of the medicinal herbs marketed for depression have not been studied at all, and even those claiming to be "scientifically proven" are often supported by just one or two poorly designed studies. A handful of herbs, however, have been proven to effectively relieve depression by multiple well-designed clinical trials. The best herbal antidepressants are those that contain these proven herbs in high-quality forms and in the proper dosages.


St. John's Wort

The herbal antidepressant supported by the strongest evidence is St. John's Wort extract. Over twenty controlled clinical trials have shown that high-quality St. John's Wort effectively relieves depression. In fact, studies comparing St. John's Wort to SSRI medications (including Paxil® and Prozac®) demonstrate that it works just as well as these drugs, but with fewer side effects. With this in mind, most people should turn to high-quality St. John's Wort extract as their first choice for a herbal antidepressant, starting with a dose of 600-900mg daily and increasing to 900-1800mg per day if necessary. According to the research, only St. John's Wort extracts that are standardized to contain 3-5% hyperforin effectively relieve depression, so don't settle for products that aren't standardized for hyperforin or standardize only for another, less important compound called hypericin. Also, keep in mind that St. John's Wort usually requires at least three weeks to begin working, and may not produce its full effects for a month or two.

SAM-e

Another herbal antidepressant backed by scientific evidence is SAM-e (S-adenosyl-L-methionine). The research behind SAM-e isn't as strong as the evidence for St. John's Wort, but it is nevertheless promising and suggests that SAM-e may offer certain advantages over both St. John's Wort and prescription antidepressants. SAM-e works quickly, and most people start noticing improvement in days rather than weeks. Unfortunately, the active dose of SAM-e, 800-1600mg daily, can cost $100 or more per month, making it far more expensive than other herbal antidepressants.

5-HTP

5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is a third herbal antidepressant shown by clinical research to treat depression effectively. 5-HTP, an amino acid, allows your body to increase serotonin levels, a mood-related neurotransmitter, in the brain. Low serotonin levels have been linked to depression, and many prescription antidepressants work by increasing serotonin levels. For most people, taking 50-300mg of 5-HTP per day helps improve mood in just a few weeks without causing side effects. Some websites discuss concerns over the safety of 5-HTP, but these misconceptions are unfounded. In fact, 5-HTP has an excellent safety record, and extensive research has shown it to be one of the safest herbal antidepressants available. 5-HTP is a good choice for a herbal antidepressant when used alone, but it may work best as a herbal antidepressant when combined with St. John's Wort.

Other Natural Antidepressants

Other popular herbal antidepressants include herbs such as Ginseng and Ginkgo, amino acids like l-tyrosine and phenylalanine, and certain nutrients including B vitamins. In general, the evidence behind these remedies is still inconclusive, although Ginseng and Ginkgo have been shown to work as herbal antidepressants in the elderly.
In summary, the best herbal antidepressants are those containing proven ingredients in the proper doses and potencies and manufactured with strict quality-control procedures.

St Johns Wort
5-HTP