Natural Cures for Depression
by Amanda Prouten
From 5HTP to porridge and valerian, we look at natural cures for depression that, used with care, may well help.
Let's face it, we all have times when our lives are pooky as a chicken in a basket and it all seems a bit of a waste of time (known more commonly as depression). But hey, rather than heading for the local prozac pimp or getting stoned out of your skull, how about a trip to your nearest health-food shop and grocer's for some feel-good nutrients to get rid of panic attacks and period pain blues?
5HTP is an instant mood booster
A tub of these tablets can be acquired at any health-food shop and works really well with almost immediate results. 5HTP is extracted from the seeds of an African shrub called griffonia and converts to serotonin, the happiness neurotransmitter, that can often be a bit low in our brain when we're run-down and stressed. It claims a number of positive effects, namely induces relaxation, elevates your mood, promotes healthy sleep and is an appetite suppressor . Always read the dosage on the tub as the strength varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Don't overdo it as you may feel sleepy during the day. On the whole, though, I find this subtly picks you up to an even keel within a day of taking it and is particularly good if you're feeling ratty, jangly and on-edge. Although it doesn't really help PMS in a hormonal balance sort of way, it can help you to avoid splitting up with your partner when all the pain and rage of womanly courses are in full flow and you're itching for a big argument. This can be taken for a period of time and can see you through a difficult phase but don't take it indefinitely, as sooner or later, you should be able to cope OK without it.
Valerian calms your nerves and helps with insomnia
This herb is a little angel of the night. It can send you into a wonderful state of relaxation as it affects both mind and body. It is a nervine, which means it calms and strengthens your nervous system, as well as being a natural sedative and relaxant. In mild doses you can take it in the daytime to de-stress. It can also be used as a painkiller for muscle cramps during periods and is also great if you have a really bad dry cough and can't get to sleep: it'll relax your chest muscles. Again this takes effect within an hour of so, but for the most instant hit, buy the dried herb root from a good apothecary such as Neal's Yard and make it into a herbal tea nightcap. It smells dreadful (like dried cat's poo) but it's worth it.
Feverfew helps you cope with painful migraines
Feverfew is best used fresh, as in chomping on a couple of very bitter, foul tasting leaves, but feverfew tablets are also available. When eating the leaves (which you'll have to grow yourself and they're very easy to grow) the trick is to crush the leaves with your teeth without letting them touch your taste buds or any mouth flesh as they can give you quite nasty mouth ulcers. Some herbalists recommend taking feverfew tablets over a period of time for regular migraine sufferers but the leaves are more immediately effective. Feverfew also relieves arthritis and painful periods. However, steer clear of it if you're up the duff as it can stimulate your womb.
Oats are great for depression, anxiety and stress
A bowl of porridge a day can keep the blues at bay. Over a period of time, oats can act as a nerve tonic, reducing stress and aiding relaxation. If you use the chunky, whole grain variety, you'll also provide your body with valuable roughage, loads of vitamin B, a good slow-release carb on the glycaemic index (to stave off hunger) - and it's a great means of reducing cholesterol.
Omega 3 essential fatty acids help cope with depression, anxiety and stress
Apart from being an all-round health saviour - reducer of cholesterol and heart disease, brain booster and more, Omega 3 EFA's have been found to increase serotonin levels promoting happiness. Found mostly in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, one is advised to eat 3 portions a week. However, if you don't eat fish, Flax oil and pumpkin oil will do the trick. Better still, buy the seeds from the health food shop and add a dessert spoon of each to your porridge every morning.
B vitamins help boost mental health and reduce anxiety disorders
B3 (niacin) supports the nervous system and memory and improves mental health. Found in red meat, fish, poultry, liver, nuts, cereals, pulses seeds, asparagus and leafy green veg. Boozing will increase your need for B3 as it decreases the absorption in your body.
B5 (pantothenic acid) prevents tiredness, headaches, depression and moodiness. Eat plenty of beef, brewer's yeast, eggs, fresh veg, kidney, liver, pulses, mushrooms, nuts, pork, fish whole wheat and rye to boost your B5. Stress and alcohol can deplete your body of this vitamin.
B6 strengthens the nervous system and prevents depression. Meat, beans, poultry, fortified cereals and some fruit and veg contain B6 so plenty of sources for carnies and veggies alike.
B12 helps maintain a healthy nervous system and can be found in most animal foods including eggs and dairy products. Veggies can get their vitamin B12 from fortified cereals, which is a bit limited so a tablet supplement might be a good idea.
Zinc helps keep you mentally alert
Zinc is found in red meat, poultry and certain seafood. Good sources also include beans, nuts and whole grains. Oats are also a good source, so if you include porridge in your diet, you should have zinc covered. One of the nicest sources of zinc is boy-juice, so chickies that are prepared to swallow know they are getting all their vitamins! Alcohol decreases the absorption of zinc so if you're a bit of a boozer, you may need to take supplements and if you're a veggie you may be missing out on your zinc as well.