Alternative Treatments for Depression – What You Should Know

  For some, seeking alternative treatments for their depression is an attempt to avoid drugs, or it may be part of the person’s preference for natural treatments in general. But just because a treatment is natural does not mean it’s the best choice for you, or that it is automatically safe. Here are some of the more popular alternative treatments for depression and what you should know about them.  

St. John’s Wort

  Have you heard of this herb? It’s commonly sold in capsules or tinctures, and is touted as a treatment for mild or moderate depression. Strengths: St. John’s Wort is prescribed in Europe, where studies have shown the herb to be effective even for major depression. Many other, smaller studies have continued to show St. John’s Wort as an effective treatment for depression. Concerns: People with depression may not know if their condition is mild, moderate, or severe. They may underestimate the severity of their depression and take St. John’s Wort when they may need something stronger. Also, the results of larger, placebo-controlled studies conflict with the smaller studies, indicating there may not be much of an effect from St. John’s Wort, particularly regarding major depression.  


  This is an abbreviated form of a much longer word, S-adenosylmethionine. SAM-e occurs naturally in the body, but a synthetic form can be purchased as a supplement.

Strengths: This is considered a promising supplement by various sectors in the medical community. It is involved in the function of several neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine.

Concerns: SAM-e is extremely expensive. Also, it can have side effects if people take it in conjunction with another antidepressant – too much serotonin could result. Some sources claim it may cause nausea and constipation. You can’t get SAM-e from food sources.  


 These increasingly popular fatty acids are implicated in the alleviation of depression symptoms. Foods like caviar, salmon, sardines, walnuts, and flaxseeds all have these healthy fats.

Strengths: Omega-3s can be found in both food sources and supplement form. They are involved in nearly all body processes; some experts say they are involved in every cell of the body. Both manic and clinical depression may be helped by these important fats.

Concerns: There really are no major concerns associated with the consumption of Omega-3s as an alternative treatment for depression, unless depressed individuals take Omega-3 supplements instead of medications they need, or quit medications cold turkey and start with Omega-3s.

As you look into alternative treatments for your depression or that of a loved one, make sure you do your research. Even if an alternative therapy is safe and effective, it may not be enough as a sole treatment. It’s important to work with your health care provider to make sure the depression is treated effectively.