How Do Some Herbs Work to Help Treat Depression?
Currently, there is not a large body of research covering the effects of certain herbal remedies on depressive symptoms. Even so, herbs have been used successfully for centuries to alleviate many physical and mental conditions. While the information gained from official clinical research in terms of the efficacy of herbal antidepressants is currently in short supply, there is a fair amount of evidence to suggest that herbs may be a natural solution to treat depression.
The exact mechanisms that allow certain herbs to offer antidepressant qualities are unclear, but it is the similarity between key organic compounds and the neurotransmitter serotonin that led investigators to begin to explore the potential medicinal properties of these herbs in aiding to treat mental illness. Low serotonin levels have been implicated as a main culprit in the brain function of depressed individuals. The molecular structure of these herbal extracts that are able to act as natural antidepressants is very close to the structure of serotonin. [1, 2]
What are Some Benefits of Using Herbal Remedies Over Pharmaceuticals?
There are a number of reasons why someone may want to stay from prescription psychotropic drugs (drugs that affect emotion, behavior, and cognition) and into the world of more natural medicines to find herbs that naturally treat depression.
Herbs or herbal supplements can be more convenient than seeking prescription antidepressants. Since herbs do not require any prescription, one can buy them without trips to the doctor and long waits at the pharmacy. However, herbs can still interact with other medications and cause adverse effects. Please be sure to refer to the last section of this article and always consult with your doctor before starting any kind of medicinal regimen so as to avoid complications. 
Perhaps a much more enticing benefit of using herbal treatments in place of prescription drugs is the decrease in potential side effects. Many antidepressant side effects are tolerated by those who take them, but there is still a fairly high percentage of users who decide to end treatment against their doctor’s recommendation. This failure to comply is most often due to issues involving side effects. Fatigue, nausea, sexual complications, insomnia, increased heart rate, and increased suicidal ideation (especially in younger depressed patients) are some of the potential side effects of different prescription antidepressants. 
Which Herbs Can Act as Natural Antidepressants?
Saffron (Crocus sativus L.) is an herb that is often used to flavor and add color to foods. This particular herb carries a number of health benefits including anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, and antidepressant properties--to name a few. Particular extracts of saffron have shown to have great potential for helping to treat depression. Evidence suggests that saffron works as to prevent reuptake of not only serotonin but dopamine and norepinephrine neurotransmitters as well. Research into the toxicology of using saffron medicinally is still somewhat inconclusive. However, saffron tea has been used for centuries as a mood enhancer and trials have shown saffron extracts to perform significantly better than a placebo in depressed patients. Further investigation into the use of saffron to treat depression appears worthwhile and promising. 
St. John’s Wort is a fairly well-known herb that has been used for decades to naturally treat depression. Depending on the individual, results can vary, but in general, St. John’s Wort is found to be comparable to prescription SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidepressant drugs. Studies have shown SJW to act in a similar manner to these types of drugs, thus increasing low levels of serotonin in the brain, which can cause depression. 
R. rosea (or “golden root”) is an herb found in Europe and Asia that can help people manage depression by means of reducing stress. R. rosea has shown to help reduce the effects of physical, chemical, and biological stressors. It also has shown promise in terms of reversing fatigue and reducing physical weakness . Golden root may be especially useful for those who experience physical symptoms alongside the mental aspects of depression.
What are the Potential Downsides of Herbal Depression Remedies?
If herbal remedies work for you, they can be fantastic alternatives to prescription pharmaceuticals, but there can be potential downsides. In terms of herbal medicine in general, clinical research is limited. As mentioned above, herbal solutions are often safer than prescription drugs, but can have very serious drug interactions if you mix herbal remedies with prescription medications. When it comes to making choices involving natural alternatives, it is still very important to check with your doctor if you are currently taking any type of prescription medication.