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Supplements to Help With Depression

Dr. Marita Schauch writes about supplements that can help people who are feeling the emotional strain of the time of year (SAD). The supplements she highlights can help any time of year and may alleviate some of the feelings of helplessness that many in today’s society feel. Please read on, and go to for any supplement information you would like to further explore or a Health Food Store or Specialty Pharmacy near you:

I’ve taken some time this month to explore depression, given how Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) tends to run rampant at this time of winter.

I’m a firm believer in people feeling empowered around their health care, and don’t necessarily prescribe any one treatment for depression. Always go and talk to your ND or MD if you’ve noticed the symptoms and want to pursue treatment.

All of that being said, there are some key natural supplements that can have a big, big impact on the mood, and I’d be remiss not to share them with you!

Vitamin B6

B6 levels are typically low in depression, especially in women taking birth control or on hormone replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms.

Considering the many functions of vitamin B6 in the brain, including the fact that it is absolutely essential in the manufacturing of dopamine and serotonin, it is likely that many individuals with depression may be suffering as a result of low vitamin B6.


As mentioned above, treating the cause – the adrenal glands – may be an important strategy for mood disorders.  Herbs such as Rhodiola, Siberian ginseng and Ashwagandha are powerful adaptogens that help to balance stress hormones such as cortisol.

Vitamin D

New research shows that low serum levels of vitamin D are associated with clinically significant symptoms of depression in otherwise healthy individuals (Psychiatry Research 2015).

Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid

Folic acid, vitamin B12 and SAM-e function as methyl donors – they carry and donate methyl molecules to important brain compounds including neurotransmitters – serotonin and dopamine.

One of the key brain compounds dependent on methylation is tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4). This compound functions as an essential coenzyme in the activation of enzymes that manufacture serotonin and dopamine.  BH4 synthesis is stimulated by folic acid and vitamin B12 and vitamin C.

5-Hydroxytryptophan (5 HTP)

5-HTP is the precursor to serotonin. Numerous studies have shown that 5-HTP is as effective as SSRIs and tricyclic antidepressants, better tolerated, and associated with fewer and much milder side effects (Psychopathology 1991).


A foundation for treating many hormonal imbalances is the concept of the liver’s role in the detoxification process. If the liver function is compromised, then estrogen metabolism is compromised, leading to excess estrogen levels and what is often described as estrogen dominance. Estrogen dominance may contribute to PMS as well as peri-menopausal symptoms.

Saffron (Crocus sativus stigma)

Saffron has shown to be an effective natural antidepressant in several clinical trials.  One study compared the effects of saffron with fluoxetine (Prozac), and both treatments resulted in significant improvements in depression symptoms and severity, with no difference in the amount of improvement between the two groups.  Saffron’s antidepressant properties seem to be related to serotonin metabolism.

Chaste Tree (Vitex Agnus Castus)

Vitex may be one of the single most important herbs for the treatment of PMS as well as other hormonal imbalances leading to poor mood. The effect of vitex is on the hypothalamus-hypophysis axis. It increases secretion of luteinizing hormone and also has an effect that favours progesterone.


Remember that a healthy microbiome promotes a healthy mood.  Support the gut!


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