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Got the blues? Boost your mood with these five supplements, which have been found to have natural antidepressant effects.
1. Ginkgo biloba
If you’re looking to take the natural approach to treating mild depression, you may want to give ginkgo biloba supplements a try. This herb increases blood flow to the brain, which can boost energy and help improve concentration. Research hasn’t yet linked this herb directly with mood, but one study found it improved attention and memory (common problems experienced with depression) in a week. In another study, the herb improved some of the sexual side effects some prescription antidepressants can cause. Take 40 to 80 milligrams of a ginkgo biloba extract standardized to 24% flavonoids and 6% terpene lactones 2 to 3 times a day.
2. 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP)
This molecule increases levels of the mood-boosting brain chemical serotonin. Studies find it significantly improves mood compared to a placebo. Take 50 milligrams 3 times daily to fight depression.
3. B vitamins
The B vitamins folate and B12 help the brain convert amino acids into mood-boosting brain chemicals such as serotonin. People older than age 60, whose bodies may poorly absorb these vitamins, and vegetarians, who may not get enough B vitamins through their diets, may benefit most from supplements. To use as part of fighting depression, take 800 micrograms folate and 400 micrograms vitamin B12 daily as part of a B vitamin complex.
4. S-adenosyl-L-methionine (SAMe)
Like prescription antidepressants, SAMe boosts levels of brain chemicals involved with mood. It works about as effectively as prescription medications and tends to kick in faster (within 1 to 2 weeks) than prescription drugs, which may take 3 or more weeks to begin working. (Another factor that favours herbs and supplements over prescription drugs is the lower risk of side effects.) Take 200 milligrams twice a day for a week. If you don’t feel better after a week, increase the dosage another 200 milligrams for a week. Continue to increase the dosage by 200 milligrams until you feel better, up to 1,200 daily milligrams.
Low zinc levels may trigger a drop in immunity that affects your mood. In one study of 14 depressed people, those who took a zinc supplement in addition to a prescription antidepressant were significantly less depressed after 6 weeks than those taking only the antidepressant. If you are experiencing depression, take 25 milligrams daily.