I think it’s fair to say that the big herbal remedy for depression is still St.John’s Wort. It is considered so successful at treating mild to moderate depression that some doctors will even issue it on prescription. I’ve checked out a few of the scientific studies for you and there is a great deal of evidence to support the claim that St John’s Wort can boost mood. The down side is that it can react with other medications so you would be best advised to see your GP before starting on a course, but if you prefer natural remedies to pills, this one will work. Although you can grow St John’s Wort (I know because I do) I would suggest that if you do decide to take it, you take a standardised dose from a health shop as potency can vary between plants and it is hard to put yourself on a consistent dose of any regularly taken home grown medication. Capsule form is safer.
Interestingly enough, there is a body of research to suggest that 75% of the efficacy of anti depressants is based on the placebo factor (the fact that because you believe it does work, it will work). When other popular herbal cures such as Gingko or Omega oils are studied they are found to work no better than placebo. It’s a shame really that you can’t buy belief in a bottle but of course anything actually labelled “placebo” by its very nature wouldn’t work…
Another good suggestion is 5-HTP which is a naturally occurring amino acid aalso work as a natural anti depressant. Again, you can buy over the counter. There seems to be a lot of anecdotal support for this one, people saying it really works. Worth a try?
Generally, mood boosting supplements work by regulating production levels of the brain chemical serotonin. I believe current thinking is that there may well be more to depression than serotonin levels but it is still a good place to start. Supplements and herbs are effective but a diet rich in foods that will help boost serotonin levels can also be a major factor in combating the symptoms of depression. Nuts are excellent for this purpose, so are bananas.
Specifically looking at mood fluctuation in females, there is a clear link (obviously) to the menstrual cycle. Evening Primrose tablets can help promote calmness and there are very definite (and scientifically proven) benefits to consuming moderate amounts of high quality cocoa rich chocolate. Vitamin B tablets can also help regulate mood (though watch out, they smell a bit strange….)
Ingesting supplements is obviously only one way of combating anxiety and depression. I personally think that clearing the mind of worries by keeping a journal can also be a real factor in fighting low mood. Meditation has a calming effect and the use of smell (incense..oils…fragrance) can also give you a boost. Lavender is excellent for calming nerves and Sandalwood can be very soothing. Avoid blends labelled “Forest,” or other such general terms, look for pure single fragrances so you know exactly what you are burning. Exercise can also boost serotonin production and exercise releases the body’s natural endorphins. There is a school of thought that regular exercise can be as beneficial, if not more so than a standard dose of anti depressants.
I’d like to add a quick disclaimer here. Depression is a term used to relate both to the medical condition and also (colloquially) to low mood. Clinical depression is a serious medical matter and needs the attention of a qualified medical practitioner. I would never advise somebody suffering from any concern with their mental health to self medicate. The advice I have given refers to the low mood that most of us suffer from occasionally.