Anxiety and depression are two conditions that are often co-occurring. Modern research has studied several herbs and supplements for anxiety and depression, each with varying results. Here you’ll find a survey of some of the most promising natural treatments currently being researched.
Anxiety and depression are both serious conditions and require one’s fullest attention and respect. It’s paramount to work with a licensed health professional in addressing these conditions. Anxiety and depression have a way of compromising one’s ability to make the best decisions. This article isn’t intended to replace any advice given to you by your doctor or serve as an excuse to go off your meds. It’s meant only to provide you with some awareness of more natural therapies that you can discuss with a licensed professional.
Anxiety and depression rates in the United States continue to rise. Given the exact nature of how these conditions develop, it’s tough to pinpoint why these rates are increasing. Maybe it’s poor diet, lack of exercise, or the over-reliance of pharmaceutical intervention. It’s impossible to say. Here are some startling facts about anxiety and depression that can be stated with certainty (R):
- 11% of Americans take antidepressant medication
- 60% of those taking medications have been doing so for 2 years or longer
- 14% of those taking medications have been doing so for 10 years or longer
- Less than 30% of those have seen a doctor in the past 2 years
- Women are 250% more likely to take these medications
- 23% of women aged 40-59 take antidepressants
- 14% of those on medication take more than one
These numbers paint a scary picture. It’s important to realize that the same classes of drugs used to treat anxiety are also used to treat anxiety (R), at least for long-term periods. Compounds like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), benzodiazepines, and even beta-blockers are all common “traditional” therapies for anxiety and depression. Modern research has shown that several supplements, herbs, and nutritional therapies may help reduce, and in some cases, replace, the need for these.
There are no magic bullets when it comes to treating anxiety and depression. What works for one may worsen symptoms for another. There are environmental, genetic, nutritional, and lifestyle factors to consider—each of which could have a tremendous impact on effective treatments. Below is an overview of several natural therapies for anxiety and depression that have shown strong promise as future therapies.
Magnesium is one of the most important minerals for our bodies. It is a co-factor in hundreds of processes that help sustain optimal health. Research suggests that as much as 80% of Americans are deficient in this mineral. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that low levels of magnesium correlate with a higher risk of depression and anxiety (R). Further research has also demonstrated that magnesium therapies, in the 400-1200mg/day range can help with “rapid recovery” from major depressive states (R).
Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is the compound in our body that helps keep us calm. It’s the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter used by our brains to balance our quick synaptic activity but is also utilized throughout the body. GABA-receptor targeting therapies have long-since been a standard for treating anxiety and depression (R). Unfortunately, many of these are pharmaceutical and often fail to address root-causes of GABA deficiency or improper utilization.
Another hiccup is that GABA supplements aren’t thought to readily cross the blood-brain barrier (R). This characteristic of dietary GABA is still uncertain, and some results describe GABA as successfully crossing the blood-brain barrier. It’s possible that other compounds such as L-Arginine and Skullcap that reduce the permeability of the blood-brain barrier may help GABA be utilized. There’s also strong evidence to suggest that certain probiotic strains like Lactobacillus rhamnosus can help increase levels of GABA and lower symptoms of anxiety and depression (R).
Seratonin and its activity in the brain are the focus of many anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications. Take SSRIs, for example; they alter the way your brain recycles serotonin to increase overall supply. The issue with serotonin is that it’s unable to cross the blood-brain-barrier. In other words, taking a “serotonin supplement” wouldn’t help increase levels of neural serotonin—it’d just get peed out. Research suggests that taking a modified form of this compound named 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HT or 5-HTP) may help get around this problem (R). That same research also demonstrates that SSRIs and 5-HTP supplementation do not work well together.
Phosphatidylserine has demonstrated several benefits for mental health and is one of the few supplements with an FDA-Approved health claim for brain health. It’s very rare for a supplement to gain FDA approval for the treatment of anything. After all, natural compounds can’t be patented, so there’s not much money there. In addition to helping reduce the risk of age-related cognitive decline, research suggests this compound may also be an effective natural therapy for anxiety and depression (R). It’s a popular nootropic and is listed as an ingredient in many nootropics for social anxiety.
Nutritional deficiencies have been studied as a root-cause of anxiety and depression for nearly 100 years. Commercialized focus on this approach now plays second-fiddle to pharmaceutical therapies, but decades of insights remain (R). Several B Vitamins have shown great promise in helping address symptoms of anxiety and depression. Vitamin B6 (as both pyridoxine and 5`Phosphate Pyridoxine) has been used as a therapy for neurological concerns for decades. In one study, researchers noted that non-verbal autistic children began speaking for the first time after receiving B-6 therapy (R).
Other B-Vitamins include Thiamine (B1), Niacin (B3), Cobalamin (B12), Riboflavin (B2), and Folate (B9) (R). It’s worth noting that these compounds have a wide range of interactivity within the body. Taking them with other compounds like Vitamin C or Magnesium can, sometimes, dramatically increase their effectiveness. Deficiencies in these compounds can go unaddressed for decades before they get noticed. B12 testing is a fairly common blood test, but you’re likely to be given anti-depressants for years before a typical MD will order a pantothenic acid (B5) test. Go figure.
Anxiety and depression are two of the most influential chronic health conditions out there. They present in varying ways, have uncertain root causes, and addressed with a vehemency of pharmaceutical disregard. Research has found strong connections between these conditions and natural compounds such as GABA, Magnesium, and B-Vitamins. Working with a knowledgable health professional to help build a treatment protocol that integrates these compounds may be the single best decision for anyone suffering from anxiety or depression can make. Stopping your anti-anxiety medication after reading this article is an example of one of the single worst decisions.
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Anxiety and depression is a matter that we take very seriously. Statistically speaking, it’s probably that we all know at least a few people suffering from these conditions. We hope that this article can help start conversations between people and their doctors about more nutritionally-focused therapies. Use the rating box below to let us know how we’re doing.