Three Natural Alternatives to Antidepressants

8-28-alternative-antidepressants-imageDepression is one of the world’s most misunderstood mood disorders, affecting people from all walks of life. While mild depression can make getting through the day more difficult than it should be, major depressive disorder—affecting roughly 6.7% of the population—can actually put you out of work. It’s a leading cause of disability worldwide, and no one is immune to the risk. Many turn to pharmaceutical antidepressants such as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) for relief of symptoms, but these types of medications don’t work for everyone, and the associated side effects can be intolerable for some individuals.

Fortunately, there are a handful of natural supplements that can help to combat symptoms of depression in certain people—here are three of the most well-known options to consider.

1. St. John’s Wort

A plant first discovered by the Ancient Greeks, usage of St. John’s Wort to fight depression has has spread throughout the entire world and experienced significant growth in popularity in recent years. Studies have shown that St. John’s Wort is more effective than placebo in treating mild-to-moderate instances of depression, and side effects tend to be far less prevalent than with prescription medications. That said, St. John’s Wort (which is actually in the MAO inhibitor family) may interact adversely with tyramine-containing foods, such as red wine and aged cheese—dietary caution is advised for those who take the supplement regularly.

2. SAMe

S-Adenosylmethionine, commonly referred to as “SAMe,” is a naturally occurring molecule that is not only used to regulate mood, but has also shown efficacy with treating pain and inflammation in numerous clinical trials. While St. John’s Wort is typically reserved for treating low-grade depressive symptoms, the energizing effects of SAMe may help target stronger symptoms of lethargy so often associated with mood disorders. Though typically more expensive than other natural alternatives to antidepressants, it comes along with few side effects, aside from potential gastrointestinal distress.

3. 5-HTP

Found in Africa, the Griffonia simplicifolia plant is not exactly a household name. It does, however, hold a unique substance within its seeds called oxitriptan, which forms the basis of a depression-fighting supplement known as 5-Hydroxytryptophan, or 5-HTP. Because Hydroxy L-tryptophan is a direct precursor to serotonin, 5-HTP is thought to work by boosting levels of the chemical within the brain when taken consistently. Though effective for some when taken on its own, 5-HTP should never be taken in conjunction with SSRI medications, as a dangerous condition known as serotonin can potentially occur in such a scenario.


Depression can at times make it seem as if there’s no escape, but with the right approach, it’s a highly treatable condition. Always discuss treatment options with your doctor, and consider mentioning one of the natural SSRI alternatives listed above.