Research supports a striking number of effective, non-drug remedies for depression.

From yoga and dog visits to curcumin and probiotics, numerous natural antidepressants can benefit many depression types and severities. Read this post to discover which one can work for you.

What is Depression?

Research supports a striking number of effective, non-drug remedies for depression.

From yoga and dog visits to curcumin and probiotics, numerous natural antidepressants can benefit many depression types and severities.

Behavioral Treatments

1) Mindfulness Meditation

The goal of mindfulness meditation is to become a “witness” rather than a “judge” of events that happen to you.

Mindfulness meditation lowers depression with benefits lasting up to 6 months [1].

It also reduces symptoms associated with acute major depressive episodes [2].

Those who practiced mindfulness meditation for at least 3 days/week were half as likely to relapse into depression as those who did not (in a RCT of 99 recovering depressed patients) [3].

Mindfulness meditation improves attention and emotional self-control, both of which are important for healthy mood [4].

Mindfulness decreases brain (amygdala) activity associated with depression symptoms [5].

People who meditate also have increased GABA, and reduced cortisol and norepinephrine levels [6, 7].

In a study of 16 people, mindfulness meditation for 27 minutes/day for 8 weeks increased gray matter in the hippocampus, which usually shrinks in depression [8, 9].

2) Yoga

Multiple meta-analyses of yoga studies (RCTs) support its benefits on depression compared to standard treatments [10, 11].


  • reduced depression symptoms (in an RCT of 139 seniors) [12].
  • reduced symptoms in 100 patients with mild depression (in RCTs) [13, 14].
  • lowered PTSD symptoms, depression, and anxiety in women [15].
  • lowered depression more than antidepressants in a study of 137 patients [16].

Yoga lowers cortisol, which is accompanied by reduced depression, anxiety, and perceived stress [17, 18, 19].

Yoga also increases BDNF, endorphin, and serotonin levels [20, 21].

A single yoga session increased GABA in 8 yoga participants [22]. However, most of the studies ranged from 1 – 3 weekly sessions of 30 – 75 minutes each, for 4 – 12 weeks.

3) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Reduces Depression

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps depressed patients change their patterns of thinking and make behavioral changes to improve coping and reduce distress [23].

The evidence-based strategy is the most widely used for preventing and reducing depression [24].

CBT is effective for both acute depressive episodes and long-term prevention [24].

In various studies (RCTs), CBT reduced depression symptoms in 177 seasonal affective disorder and 87 postpartum depression patiednts [25, 26].

Acceptance and commitment therapy (type of CBT) decreases mild to moderate depression symptoms, depression severity, and odds of suicidal ideation [27, 28].

CBT reduces negative perceptions of emotions [29].

It works by reducing the activity in parts of the brain that are involved in emotional (amygdala, hippocampus) and cognitive processing (prefrontal and anterior cingulate cortex) [30].

CBT is traditionally delivered face-to-face by therapists but is also performed online with or without a therapist [31].

MoodGYM is a free, online CBT program for depression [32].

4) Exercise

Regular exercisers have lower depression, and physical activity is associated with decreased depression risk [33, 34].

Individuals who maintain physical fitness are also less likely to relapse into depression [35].

Aerobic exercise, resistance training, and a combination of the two reduce depression symptoms [36, 37].

In a 156-person study (RCT) of exercise vs sertraline (antidepressant), aerobic exercise improved depression symptoms to a similar degree as the drug [38].

In another study (RCT), exercisers maintained lower depression symptoms and improved quality of life for a longer period than cognitive behavioral therapy [39].

Inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain contribute to depression. Although exercise promotes short-term inflammation, it has long-term anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects [40, 41].

Exercise also increases serotonin, dopamine, BDNF, norepinephrine, and endorphins [42, 43, 44].

People with depression often have an overactive HPA axis. Regular exercise is associated with lower HPA-axis reactivity in humans and animals [45, 46].

Moderate intensity (e.g., cycling, brisk walking) and vigorous intensity (e.g., running, swimming) exercise are both effective for depression [37].

For moderate-intensity exercise, benefits may be best achieved with at least 150 minutes/week, broken up into 30-minute sessions [47].

5) Light Therapy

Light therapy involves placing a light box (10,000 lux) near you for 30 minutes/morning upon waking [48].

Light therapy is especially effective for seasonal affective disorder, as the bright artificial light offsets the lack of sunlight in winter [48].

Bright light therapy reduced depression in a study (RCT) of 99 people with winter seasonal depression [49].

Even though light therapy is best for seasonal depression, it also lowered depression symptoms in a study (DB-RCT) of 122 patients with nonseasonal depression [50].

Patients with bipolar depression recovered faster if they had a window facing east to the morning sun, serving a similar role as a light box [51].

Exposure to bright light in the morning helps synchronize the circadian rhythm of the neurotransmitters disrupted in depression [52, 53, 54].

6) Hypnosis

Hypnosis is a state of focused attention and reduced awareness of the environment. It enhances the ability to respond to suggestions [55].

Being in a hypnotic state is not beneficial on its own. But when individuals internalize beneficial suggestions, they can improve their thoughts and behavior.

Hypnosis is a viable treatment for depression by itself or paired with psychotherapy (based on a meta-analysis of RCTs) [56, 57].

Hypnosis changes how people view themselves and promotes coping skills to manage depression [58].

7) Interpersonal Therapy

Interpersonal therapy emphasizes the social context of depression and aims to improve communication skills and relationship-building [59].

Interpersonal therapy is one of the most supported treatment options for depression [60].

It is effective on its own and in addition to antidepressant drugs in treating depression and preventing relapse [60].

In a study (RCT) of 120 women with postpartum depression, interpersonal therapy improved depression symptoms and social adjustment [61].

Interpersonal therapy [62]:

  • increases social support
  • lowers stress
  • improves emotional processing
  • betters relationship skills

Interpersonal therapy is typically delivered by a therapist over 12 weekly sessions.

However, internet-delivered, self-guided interpersonal therapy also lowered depressive symptoms in a study of over 1800 people [63].

8) Psychodynamic Therapy

Psychodynamic therapy is probably the therapy you most associate with depression treatment. It focuses on conscious and subconscious feelings from past experiences, and how they affect the patient.

The effectiveness of psychodynamic therapy for depression treatment is well-supported [64]. In some cases, psychodynamic therapy was as effective as prescription antidepressants.

Internet-delivered psychodynamic therapy for 10 weeks reduced symptoms in a study (RCT) of 100 patients with mood and anxiety disorders [65].

Psychodynamic therapy reduced metabolic activity in the right insula – a brain region important in emotion control and depression. This decreased activity was associated with greater symptom reduction over 4 weeks of treatment [66].

9) Music Therapy

Music therapy is well-supported for treating depression [67].

Music therapy improved depression and anxiety symptoms, and general functioning in 79 depression patients (RCTs) [68, 69].

In 14 adolescents with depression, listening to rock music decreased cortisol and right frontal brain activation, which is associated with negative feelings, and is higher in depressed individuals [70].

10) Animal-Assisted Therapy

A weekly dog visit lowered depression and anxiety in a study of 178 chemotherapy patients and 68 nursing home residents [71, 72].

Swimming with dolphins daily for 2 weeks, and spending time with farm animals for 12 weeks improved depressive symptoms, self-confidence, and coping in 120 depressed patients (RCTs) [73, 74].

Animal-human interactions reduce cortisol reactivity to stress. They also increase oxytocin, the “love” hormone, which affects the HPA axis, neurotransmitters, and inflammation [75].

11) Improving Sleep Quality

Insomnia may trigger depression, and depression worsens insomnia. Nearly 75% of depressed patients report difficulty falling or staying asleep [76].

Patients with insomnia have 2 – 3 times greater risk of developing depression than those without insomnia [77, 78].

Sleep deprivation prevents hippocampus growth and function [79, 80]. This can cause distorted thoughts and emotional reactivity, which are the hallmarks of depression [81].

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia improves sleep quality and depression symptoms [82, 83, 84].

Therefore, improving sleep quality will also benefit depressive symptoms.

12) Art Therapy

Art therapy encourages free self-expression with painting, drawing, or modeling [85].

Art therapy lowered depression symptoms in many studies (RCTs) and is a well-supported depression treatment for breast cancer patients [86, 87, 88, 89, 90].

13) Massages

Massage therapy effectively reduces depression symptoms [91].

Massages can [92]:

  • lower depression and anxiety symptoms
  • increase dopamine and serotonin
  • lower cortisol and norepinephrine

14) Sunlight

Living in regions with more sunlight is associated with less cognitive impairment [93].

Self-reported sun exposure was associated with less depression symptoms and fatigue in a study of 198 MS patients [94].

People with depression have vitamin D levels 14% lower than normal [95]. Sunlight increases vitamin D production [96].

The first enzyme of serotonin production (tryptophan hydroxylase) is found in human skin. Sun exposure increases serotonin and its receptors in the brain [97, 98].

Light increases dopamine and dopamine DRD2 receptors to improve its function [99, 98].

Sunlight also increases relaxation by producing endorphins – responsible for the “runner’s high” [100].

15) Chronotherapy

Depressed individuals usually have a disrupted circadian rhythm [54].

Therapy involving total sleep deprivation, sleep phase advance, and bright light therapy (called triple chronotherapy) improves depression symptoms quickly and sustainably [101].

Compared to daily exercise, triple chronotherapy provided immediate relief and greater response and recovery in a study (RCT) of 75 adults with major depression [102].

Triple chronotherapy also reduced depressive and suicidal symptoms in 23 depression patients [103, 104].

Sleep deprivation increases the short-term activity of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine [105].

Triple chronotherapy restores circadian rhythms of serotonin and dopamine, which are disturbed in depression [54].

To implement triple chronotherapy [102]:

  • Day 1 – Don’t sleep at all (total sleep deprivation).
  • Day 2 – Go to bed 6 hours before your normal bedtime and sleep for 7 hours. Then, 2 hours of bright light exposure upon waking.
  • Day 3 – Go to sleep and wake up 2 hours later than on Day 2, followed by light exposure
  • Day 4 – Go to sleep and wake up 2 hours later than on Day 3, followed by light exposure
  • Day 5 – Go to sleep and wake up 2 hours later than on Day 4, followed by light exposure.
  • After day 5, keep your new sleep and wake times to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm.

16) Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Vagus nerve stimulation is FDA-approved for treatment-resistant depression.

It improved depression outcomes (response, remission) and symptoms in 85 patients [106, 107].

Vagus nerve stimulation increases blood flow to brain regions with reduced blood flow in depression [108].

Vagus nerve stimulation also increases norepinephrine and serotonin [109].

17) Expressive Writing

In expressive writing, individuals write deeply about a troubling or emotional event [110].

Expressive writing benefits immune function and well-being [111, 112].

Writing about deep thoughts related to an emotional event for 20 minutes over 3 consecutive days reduced depression symptoms in a study (RCT) of 40 depression patients [113].

In another study (RCT) of 102 chronic pain patients, individuals who wrote letters expressing their anger improved their control over depression [114].

18) Acupuncture

Acupuncture for 30 minutes reduced depression in a study (RCT) of 30 treatment-resistant patients [115].

Acupuncture increases opioid, serotonin, dopamine, and GABA activity, while inhibiting norepinephrine and glutamate [116].

Acupuncture also elevated NPY in the hippocampus of rats [117].

19) Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback training provides participants real-time information on the activity of certain brain regions. It teaches people to self-control their brain activity.

Neurofeedback improved depressive symptoms and remission in 29 participants with depression [118, 119].

In a study (RCT) of 24 multiple sclerosis (MS) patients, neurofeedback reduced depressive symptoms and fatigue [120].

Neurofeedback aligns activity of the left and right brain hemispheres to improve mood [121]. The left hemisphere is often underactive in depression.

20) Cold Exposure

Whole-body cryotherapy reduced depression and anxiety symptoms in a study of 60 depression/anxiety patients [122].

Cold exposure increases blood and brain levels of norepinephrine and endorphins, which produce feelings of well-being [123, 124, 125].

21) Transcranial Photobiomodulation (PBM)

Transcranial PBM reduced depressive symptoms and increased positive emotions in 54 individuals [126, 127, 128].

Infrared light stimulates neurogenesis, inhibits brain oxidative stress and inflammation, and increases brain energy utilization, all of which benefit depression [129].

Transcranial PBM devices are available online. For example, the Vielight 810 nm device improved cognitive function in dementia patients [130].

22) Sauna Use

A single session of heat therapy improved depression symptoms in a study of 10 cancer patients [131].

15 minutes/day of infrared sauna use for 4 weeks improved depression symptoms and anger in a study (RCT) of 46 chronic pain patients [132].

Sauna use increases endorphins, which promote feelings of happiness [133, 134, 135].

23) Dance/Movement Therapy

Dance/movement therapy improved depression, stress, serotonin, dopamine, and vitality in 104 people with depression [136, 137, 138].

24) Minimizing Light at Night

Exposure to light at night is associated with depression and sleep issues [139, 140].

In animals, dim light at night increased depression behaviors, TNF-alpha, and brain inflammation [141, 142].

Supplements That Reduce Depression

25) St. John’s Wort

St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is the most-studied antidepressant herb and is widely prescribed for depression in Europe. The recommended dose is 900-1800 mg/day.

In multiple meta-analyses (of DB-RCTs), St. John’s Wort showed anti-depressive effects similar to SSRIs with few side effects [143, 144].

St John’s Wort also prevented or delayed depression relapse in 426 patients (DB-RCT) [145].

St. John’s wort increases serotonin receptors and dopamine signaling [146, 147]. It also inhibits serotonin reuptake and glutamate release [148, 149].

26) Fish Oil/Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Low levels of omega-3s are associated with depression [150, 151].

Omega-3s are effective for those with clinical depression and non-diagnosed individuals with depressive symptoms [152, 153].

EPA is the most beneficial omega-3 for depression (according to a meta-analysis) [154].

Adding omega-3s to the antidepressant Citalopram improved depressive symptoms in 42 patients (RCT) [155].

Omega-3s may reduce depression by lowering inflammation in the brain. They also improve brain structure membranes, which improves the function of these structures [156, 156].

27) S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe)

SAMe is effective and safe in treating depression (according to a meta-analysis) [157].

In a study (DB-RCT) of 73 patients who did not respond to SSRIs, 800 mg SAMe 2x/day for 6 weeks improved depressive symptoms and increased remission rates [158].

SAMe has therapeutic effects similar to common antidepressants [159], has a relatively fast onset, and is tolerated in high doses [160, 159].

SAMe improves methylation of neurotransmitters (catecholamines) and increases serotonin turnover, reuptake inhibition of norepinephrine, and dopamine activity [161].

28) Curcumin

Curcumin reduces depressive symptoms in patients with major depression and is well tolerated [162, 163, 164].

Curcumin (administered with piperine) enhanced the antidepressant effects of SSRIs in mice [165].

Curcumin taken at 1 g/day for 6 weeks reduced depression along with inflammatory cytokines and cortisol, and increased BDNF in 108 adults (DB-RCT) [166].

In mice, curcumin increased serotonin and dopamine, and blocked MAO-A and MAO-B. It also promoted the development of new brain cells in stressed rats [167, 168, 169].

29) DHEA

Low DHEA levels are associated with increased depressive symptoms and are often found in clinically depressed patients [170, 171].

At least 90 mg/day of DHEA reduced depressive symptoms and improved mood (in various DB-RCTs) [172, 173].

DHEA impacts release, breakdown, reuptake, and receptor binding activity of serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, and GABA [174].

30) Probiotics

The gut microbiota strongly impacts brain function. People who have inflammatory gut diseases often also have depression [175].

Probiotics reduce depressive symptoms in both healthy and depressed individuals [176, 177].

The most common species consumed for depression include L. helveticus, B. longum, L. acidophilus, L. rhamnosus, B. bifidum, L. casei, and L. pentosus.

Because serotonin is produced in the gut, changes to the microbiome can influence serotonin levels and activity in the brain [177]. Probiotics that enhance the diversity of the microbiome can thus promote a more favorable environment for serotonin synthesis.

Probiotics also reduce systemic inflammation, which is often elevated in depression [177].

31) Saffron

Saffron reduced depression in studies (DB-RCTs) of 40 patients each, with mild to moderate depression, without side effects [178, 179].

Saffron supplementation of 30 mg/day for 6-8 weeks reduced depression similarly to SSRIs in 124 patients with depression (DB-RCTs) [180, 181, 182].

Saffron inhibits the reuptake of dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin [183], and blocks the NMDA receptor [184].

32) Acetyl-L-Carnitine

Acetyl-L-carnitine treats depression effectively [185, 186].

Between 1.5-3 grams/day for 30 to 60 days reduced depressive symptoms in elderly patients (DB-RCTs) [186].

Acetyl-L-carnitine (1 gram/day for 12 weeks) improved depressive symptoms similarly to an antidepressant in a DB-RCT of 204 patients with chronic depressive symptoms [187].

Acetyl-L-carnitine increases cell growth in the hippocampus, BDNF, and glutamate release, and serotonin levels and receptor activity [185].

33) Vitamin B9/Folate

Depressed individuals have lower folate levels than nondepressed ones [188].

15 mg/day of methylfolate for 6 months improved clinical and social depressive symptoms in a study (DB-RCT) of 123 depression and schizophrenia patients [189].

Folate also improves responses to antidepressant drugs [190].

Folate is involved in serotonin and dopamine production. Folic acid stimulates serotonin receptors in the brain [191, 192, 193].

34) Vitamin B12/Cobalamin

Vitamin B12 taken at 1 mg/day for 6 weeks improved depressive symptoms in a study (RCT) of 73 depression patients with low B12 [194].

Vitamins B2, B6, B9, and B12 lowered homocysteine levels and reduced depressive symptoms in a study (DB-RCT) of 236 patients [195].

35) Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased risk for depression and suicide [196, 197].

At least 600-800 IU/day of vitamin D improved depressive symptoms (in a meta-analysis) [198].

3,500 IU/day of vitamin D for 1 month improved seasonal affective disorder symptoms (in an RCT) [199].

Vitamin D supplementation also lowers suicide risk linked to vitamin D deficiency [200].

Vitamin D increases the enzyme tyrosine hydroxylase, which produces dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine [201].

It also protects against dopamine and serotonin depletion in the brain (striatum and nucleus accumbens) [202].

36) Kava

Kava improved depression, anxiety, insomnia, sleep quality, cognitive performance, mood, tension, and restlessness in 262 participants (RCTs) [203, 204, 205].

Kava strengthens GABA-A receptor communication and inhibits norepinephrine reuptake [206, 207].

37) Valerian

500 mg of valerian by itself or with St. John’s Wort reduced depression, stress, and anxiety in multiple studies [208, 209].

Valerian prevented stressed rats from developing depressive-like behaviors and increased serotonin and cell growth in the hippocampus [210, 211].

38) Melatonin

Because of its sedating and calming effects, melatonin can counter the sleep disturbances often found in depression [212].

Individuals with depression have low circulating levels of nighttime melatonin and a compromised melatonin circadian rhythm [213, 214, 215].

Furthermore, many antidepressants increase melatonin [216, 217].

3 mg melatonin at bedtime for 6 months lowered depressive symptoms in a study (DB-RCT) of 79 women [218].

Melatonin can improve the circadian rhythm of various neurotransmitters that are disturbed in depression [212].

In rats, melatonin maintained norepinephrine levels by preserving neurotransmitter transporters and blocking MAO-A [219].

39) Rhodiola Rosea

340 and 680 mg/day rhodiola rosea decreased depressive symptoms, insomnia, and emotional instability in a study (RCT) of 89 people [220].

Rhodiola rosea also showed antidepressant effects in rats exposed to chronic stress [221, 222].

In animals, rhodiola rosea lowers cortisol, stress-induced protein damage, and nitric oxide, inhibits MAO-A. It also restores serotonin in the hippocampus and repairs damaged hippocampal cells [223, 224, 225].

40) Magnolia Bark

Magnolia bark (magnolia officinalis) is used in traditional Chinese medicine. Its active compounds include honokiol and magnolol, located in the bark of the tree [226].

Honokiol and magnolol lowered depression and anxiety in animals [227, 228, 229].

Magnolia bark activates GABA-A receptors and blocks the activity of dopamine and serotonin transporters (increasing these neurotransmitters) [230, 228, 231].

41) Magnesium

Magnesium deficiency is associated with depression and suicide [232, 233].

Case studies show improvements in depression, anxiety, and sleep within one week of magnesium supplementation [234].

Magnesium improved depressive symptoms in people with postpartum depression, premenstrual syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and chronic fatigue syndrome [234, 235, 236, 237].

Magnesium blocks the NMDA receptor, which reduces the effect of glutamate and lowers depression [232].

42) Inositol

Individuals with depression have low levels of inositol in the brain (frontal and prefrontal cortex) [238, 239].

Inositol is likely effective for depression (according to a meta-analysis of DB-RCTs) [240].

Myoinositol (0.6 or 2 grams) lowered depressive symptoms in a study (DB-RCT) of 71 women with premenstrual depression [241].

Myoinositol decreases serotonin transporter activity, thus increasing available serotonin [242].

43) Psilocybin

Psilocybin supplemented at 10 and 25 mg, one week apart, reduced depressive symptoms after 3 months in 12 adults with treatment-resistant depression [243].

Psilocybin improved mood 6 months after use in a study (DB-RCT) of 12 cancer patients [244].

In a study (DB-RCT) of 25 healthy volunteers psilocybin enhanced mood by decreasing amygdala reactivity, a brain region of emotional processing [245].

44) L-Theanine

L-theanine intake (250 mg/day for 8 weeks) improved depressive symptoms, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and cognitive function in 20 patients with major depression [246].

In mice exposed to chronic social stress, L-theanine alleviated depression, shortened lifespan, brain shrinkage, and oxidative damage to DNA [247].

Due to its structural similarity to glutamate, theanine can bind the glutamate receptors and improve glutamate activity, which is disrupted in depression [246].

45) Zinc

Zinc deficiency is associated with increased depression prevalence and severity. Furthermore, nonresponders to antidepressant drugs have lower zinc levels than responders [248].

Zinc is an effective standalone or supplementary treatment for depression (according to a meta-analysis of RCTs) [249].

Zinc (30 mg for 12 weeks) improved mood and BDNF in a study (DB-RCT) of 50 people. Increased BDNF was associated with lower depressive symptom severity [250, 251, 252].

Chronic zinc treatment increased serotonin receptors in rats [253].

46) Creatine

Creatine supplementation (3-5 g/day for 4 and 8 weeks) lowered depression symptoms in people with methamphetamine dependence or treatment-resistant depression [254, 255, 256].

Creatine taken at 5 g/day with an SSRI improved symptoms more than SSRI alone in a study (DB-RCT) of 52 women with major depression [257].

Creatine reduces the body’s need to synthesize creatine, which increases available S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe) [258].

Further, creatine lowers homocysteine, which is associated with depression [259, 260, 261, 262].

47) Lithium

In 31 bipolar patients, lithium taken for 6 weeks resulted in a 62% remission rate, which is greater than traditional antidepressants [263, 264].

Lithium is also often added to antidepressants to improve their effectiveness [265].

Lithium increases serotonin receptor sensitivity and BDNF levels [266, 267].

Lithium has side effects and potential toxicities to consider before starting treatment [268]. Proper dosage monitoring can limit these risks.

48) Lavender

Lavender aromatherapy lowered depression, stress, and anxiety (in RCTs of 28 postpartum women and 80 major depression patients) [269, 270].

Application of lavender cream nightly for 8 weeks reduced depression, anxiety, and stress in a study (RCT) of 141 pregnant women [271].

Lavender plus an antidepressant reduced depression more than the antidepressant alone (in an RCT of 45 people) [272].

Lavender oil increases dopamine receptors in mice brains and binds the NMDA receptors to decrease their activity [273, 274].

49) Ginseng

Ginseng has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-stress, and antidepressive effects in animals and humans [275].

Ginseng lowered depression and increased quality of life in 477 postmenopausal women (DB-RCTs) [276, 277].

Ginseng increases hippocampal dopamine, serotonin, and BDNF, and lowers nitric oxide and inflammatory cytokines [278, 279, 280, 281].

50) Bacopa Monnieri

Bacopa extract (300 mg/day for 12 weeks) improved depression and anxiety symptoms, working memory, and attention in a study (DB-RCT) of 54 healthy seniors [282].

Bacopa alleviated mixed anxiety-depressive disorder in mice and protected against acute and chronic stress in rats [283, 284].

Bacopa preserves dopamine levels that are otherwise depleted in chronic stress and drug-induced neurotoxicity [285, 286].

51) Apigenin

Apigenin lowered mild to moderate levels of depression, stress, and anxiety in 118 participants (DB-RCTs) [287, 288].

Apigenin lowered depression in mice by increasing brain BDNF and reducing inflammatory enzymes (nitric oxide synthase and COX-2) [289, 290].

52) Berberine

Intake of 400 mg/day of berberine for 8 weeks reduced depression, anxiety, and IBS symptoms while improving quality of life in a study (DB-RCT) of 196 IBS patients [291].

Berberine may also be useful for alleviating depression and anxiety symptoms that follow morphine addiction (in animals) [292].

Berberine increases serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine in the brain (hippocampus and frontal cortex) and inhibits MAO-A [293, 294, 295].

53) Pregnenolone

Decreased pregnenolone levels are associated with depression [296].

Pregnenolone (500 and 100 mg/day) lowered depressive symptoms in 150 bipolar/depression patients (DB-RCTs) [297, 298].

Depression is associated with abnormalities in brain microtubule function. By increasing the formation and stability of tubules, pregnenolone increases the growth of brain cells (axons and dendrites) [299, 300].

54) 5-HTP

The effects of 5-HTP are comparable to prescribed antidepressants [301].

5-HTP plus SSRI raised serotonin 500% in a study of 52 healthy men [302].

Due to this extreme serotonin elevation, some clinicians recommend slow-release 5-HTP with SSRIs [303, 302, 304]. Combinations of 5-HTP and medications should only be used under medical supervision.

55) Holy Basil/Tulsi

Holy basil (1 gram/day for 60 days) lowered depression, stress, and anxiety in a study of 35 participants [305].

In animal studies, holy basil showed antidepressant effects similar to commonly-prescribed antidepressants and improved anxiety, memory, and cognitive function [306].

56) Uridine

In a study of 7 depressed adolescents with bipolar disorder, uridine treatment for 6 weeks was associated with decreased depressive symptoms [307].

In rats, uridine alleviated depression-like behaviors and increased dopamine in the brain [308, 309].

57) Tyrosine

Tyrosine is a precursor for dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and thyroid hormones.

Tyrosine improved depression in multiple case studies [310, 310].

However, a trial of 65 patients did not support tyrosine as an antidepressant [311]. Tyrosine might only help patients with low dopamine and norepinephrine.

58) Borage

Borage (Echium amoenum) is an herb native to Iran, referred to as “ox-tongue.”

Borage (375 mg/day) lowered depressive symptoms after 4 weeks in a study (DB-RCT) of 35 individuals, but was not effective after 6 weeks [312].

59) Olive Oil

Olive oil intake is associated with lower depression risk and improved depressive symptoms [313, 314].

Consumption of olive oil and oleic acid – the primary fatty acid in olive oil – was associated with reduced depression risk in 4,271 participants [315].

Olive oil increases the release and turnover of dopamine [316].

Oleic acid in olive oil produces oleamide, which improves serotonin receptor binding [317].

60) Vitamin B2/Riboflavin

Many individuals with depression are riboflavin-deficient [318].

Riboflavin intake prevented postpartum depression in 865 women [319].

A supplement containing 10 mg of each B1, B2, and B6 vitamins improved depression in a study (DB-RCT) of elderly depression patients [320].

Riboflavin benefits may depend on gender: Increased riboflavin intake was associated with decreased depressive symptoms in girls but not in boys in a study of 6,500 adolescents [321].

61) Vitamin B6

Low B6 levels were associated with increased depressive symptoms in a study of 140 people [322].

Women consuming more foods containing B6 had a lower risk of depression (in a study of 170 women) [323].

62) Fisetin

Fisetin reduced depressive-like behavior and pain-induced depression and anxiety in mice [324, 325].

In a similar animal study, fisetin increased serotonin and norepinephrine, inhibited MAO-A, and lowered brain inflammatory cytokines and nitric oxide synthase [324, 326].

63) Resveratrol

In animals, resveratrol alleviated chronic stress-induced depressive-like behaviors, increased serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine and blocked MAO-A [327, 328, 329].

64) Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba lowered depression-like behaviors, reduced brain oxidative stress, and improved nerve cell formation in animals [330, 331].

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About the Author

Matt Lehrer, PhD

PhD (Behavioural Health, Nutritional Sciences)

Matt is a PhD candidate at The University of Texas at Austin and has a MS from The University of Texas at Austin.

As a scientist, Matt believes his job is not only to produce knowledge, but to share it with a wide audience. He has experience in nutritional counseling, personal training, and health promotion.

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