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Dealing With Depression

Winston Churchill called depression "living with the black dog" because it followed him everywhere. It can be a devastating condition of hopelessness and despair. It does not have to reach suicide levels to ruin your life. When it comes on us in times of loss and grief, we can usually see that it will someday pass, and the joy of living may return. When it comes with no outside cause, it is harder to have that ray of hope.

Fortunately there are several useful natural options for depression, with less stigma and problems than drug therapy. I always recommend a good multivitamin with minerals, because the brain needs folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, magnesium and other nutrients to create energy. Elderly people will often brighten up quickly with an injection of vitamin B12, which they cannot absorb very well from food.

The brain is 60% fat, and half of that is the fatty acid DHA. So, I will also supplement the omega 3 fats. My favorite source is seal blubber oil. Fish are also a source of these good fats.

The herb St. John’s Wort is a powerful anti-depressant. The basic adult dose is 300 to 350 milligrams, three times daily, of a standardized extract with 0.3% hypericin content. If it is good quality, it will help most people with few side-effects. It lifts the mood and improves sleep quality. Do not combine it with drug anti-depressants!

Another great remedy is 5-HTP from the Griffonia plant. 5-HTP is made directly into serotonin in the brain, and also into beta-endorphin which makes us feel really good.

It also dramatically improves sleep quality. It helps sleep apnea too, which is a lapse in breathing during sleep. It helps with weight loss and reduces cravings for sugars and starches. It helps narcolepsy, fibromyalgia and more. The usual doses are 50 to 200 mg three times daily before meals, and it can sometimes cause nausea or drowsiness. 

The herbs Kava Kava and Valerian are sometimes useful, if there is anxiety or agitation. However they can be very sedating, so daytime use can interfere with safe driving or other risky activities.

Gingko biloba is most used for memory weakness, but it also helps with depression associated with aging. It restores the receptors on the nerves that receive the serotonin, so it can be used alone or with 5-HTP or St. John’s Wort for maximum effect.