Alternative medicineBy Mayo Clinic staff
You may be interested in trying to relieve depression symptoms with complementary or alternative medicine strategies. These include supplements and mind-body techniques. Make certain you understand risks as well as possible benefits before pursuing alternative therapy. Don't forgo conventional medical treatment or psychotherapy for alternative medicine. When it comes to depression, alternative treatments aren't a substitute for medical care.
Here are some common alternative treatments that are used for depression.
Herbal remedies and supplements
A number of herbal remedies and supplements have been used for depression. A few common ones include:
- St. John's wort. Known scientifically as Hypericum perforatum, this is an herb that's been used for centuries to treat a variety of ills, including depression. It's not approved by the FDA to treat depression in the United States. Rather, it's classified as a dietary supplement. However, it's a popular treatment in Europe for mild or moderate depression. But, it can interfere with other depression medicines, as well as some drugs used to treat people with heart disease, seizures, cancer and organ transplant.
- SAMe. Pronounced "sammy," this is a synthetic form of a chemical that occurs naturally in the body. The name is short for S-adenosylmethionine. It's not approved by the FDA to treat depression in the United States. Rather, it's classified as a dietary supplement. Side effects are usually minimal, but SAMe can trigger mania in people with bipolar disorder.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Eating a diet rich in omega-3s or taking omega-3 supplements may help ease depression, especially when used in addition to standard depression treatments. These healthy fats are found in cold-water fish, flaxseed, flax oil, walnuts and some other foods.
- Folate. Low levels of folate, a B vitamin, may cause a slowed response to some antidepressants. Taking folate supplements (folic acid) may be helpful when used in addition to antidepressants. Ask your doctor what amount is right for you.
Keep in mind that nutritional and dietary products aren't monitored by the FDA the same way medications are. You can't always be certain of what you're getting and if it's safe. Also, be aware that some herbal and dietary supplements can interfere with prescription medications or cause dangerous interactions. To be safe, talk to your doctors and other health care providers before taking any herbal or dietary supplements.
The connection between mind and body has been studied for centuries. Complementary and alternative medicine practitioners believe the mind and body must be in harmony for you to stay healthy.
Mind-body techniques that may be tried to ease depression symptoms include:
- Guided imagery
- Massage therapy
As with dietary supplements, take care in using these techniques. Although they may pose less of a risk, relying solely on these therapies is not enough to treat depression.
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