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Break free from pharmaceuticals and gain control of your own headspace by combatting depression with safer natural solutions that actually work.

When a patient is battling with a bout of depression, an antidepressant is often suggested to combat negative feelings and thought patterns. While prescription antidepressants can be very helpful for some, many individuals are hesitant to try a psychotropic (mood altering) drug. This may be especially true for those who are already taking other prescribed drugs and do not wish to add another to the list.

Luckily for those seeking a different form of treatment, there are many natural alternatives that can help you reign in your depression while avoiding pharmaceutical drugs. When looking for a way to beat the blues without turning to prescription medication, you might want to think about turning to natural antidepressants and remedies.

Natural antidepressants are drug-free ways to combat depression or persistent negative thoughts and feelings. Some are natural compounds that come in pill form and are as convenient and safe as a daily vitamin. Other natural solutions include external remedies that one can try. As with antidepressant medications, you may need to run some trial and error to see which works the best for you. The following drug-free alternatives to treat depression are some of the best natural antidepressants. These can be a safe but effective way to get a hold on your bad moods and keep sadness at bay.

1. Folate & Folic Acid

Folate is a type of B vitamin that occurs naturally in certain foods. Folic acid is often added to foods and is also available as a supplement. Lack of adequate available folate can sometimes lead to a range of different health problems including heart disease, cancer, and cognitive functions. Low folate levels are not incredibly common, but can occur due to things like poor diet, alcoholism, or issues with physiological folate absorption. [1]

In terms of affected cognition function in individuals with low levels of folate, clinical studies have shown that these patients with lower folate levels are much more likely to exhibit symptoms of depression compared to those with normal levels. [2]

Eating folate-rich foods like dark green vegetables, fruits, beans, and eggs is a fantastic way to keep your folate levels where they should be [1]. Taking a folic acid supplement will increase folate levels as well. 

2. Light Therapy

Light therapy (LT) is regular exposure to an artificial light source as a way to enhance overall mood. This method is often used as a way to treat those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. Light therapy has proven effective for those who suffer from this type of depressive episode during the winter months due to lack of adequate sunlight [3]. More recently, researchers have pivoted their curiosities toward determining the effects of LT on nonseasonal depression sufferers.

The findings for nonseasonal sufferers of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) using Light Therapy are positive. Depressed individuals who participated in the light therapy trials showed a significant reduction in depressive symptoms compared to those who did not receive LT.

Furthermore, LT without an antidepressant drug was shown to be more effective on depression than an antidepressant without LT. [4

3. SAMe

SAMe (or S-adenosylmethionine as it may be referenced in a science textbook) is a naturally occurring compound found in our bodies. It is involved in similar processes as folate and very commonly exists in depressed patients in lower levels than normal. Specific levels of the SAMe compound can be detected in the blood or in Cerebral Spinal Fluid (CSF) with appropriate lab testing. [5]

Studies have found that taking oral SAMe supplements (available over the counter) to increase levels within the body have been effective in treating severe symptoms of depression. In fact, in some cases, naturally occurring SAMe has proven more effective than some kinds of antidepressant drugs. [6]

4. Yoga

Some of the findings in yoga-based research on depression have been truly remarkable. Yoga has become a wildly popular activity that has countless benefits. This gentle form of exercise is a fantastic mood booster and almost everyone can participate regardless of age, strength, health, and even most disabilities [7]. Plus, yoga videos are readily available online for those who wish to practice at home or do not have the money to pay for regular classes.

In one Yoga study that looked at the progress of severely depressed patients over the course of an eight-week program, there was a significant decrease in reported depressive symptoms. 60% of individuals with severe depression had entered a period of remission with symptom relief by the end of the eight-week yoga study. [7] 

5. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), also referred as "talk" therapy, can perhaps seem like an easy go-to for depression treatment, but the evidence supporting its efficacy is undeniable. Cognitive therapy aims for mindfulness and allows a patient to make links between feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. While we may not always be able to change our thoughts or feelings, we can gain control over how we process and react to them. [8]

While talking it out can definitely help one to get a grip on the symptoms of their depression, there is especially strong data that suggests the importance of cognitive therapy during periods when depression is in remission. Patients who enter remission from their depression are over 10% less likely to relapse if they stick with cognitive therapy [9]. Therapy is often used alongside antidepressants, but pharmaceuticals are in no way required for those who enter therapy. Talk therapy is there to help, not to force unwanted treatments. 

Finding the Right Treatment for YOU

Regardless of which route one takes to treat their depression — drugs or more natural alternatives — finding the right individualized treatment program is absolutely vital. This process can take time. Everyone is different and depression can vary greatly from person to person. Being open minded to trial and error allows for the best possible results.

Stay Healthy, Be Safe

Remember to take care of yourself, pay attention to your feelings, and always reach out for help when it is needed. If you are currently taking any medications or live with a chronic disease or illness, always consult your doctor before starting supplements. Even natural treatments can occasionally interfere with prescription drugs or existing conditions.