13 Natural Remedies for Depression

depressionI’ve been on depression medication since I was 9 years old, well technically it was prescribed for anxiety in the beginning, but soon I was treated for both. In 3rd grade I was able to say, rather clumsily, “I am taking chill pills because there is an imbalance of serotonin in my brain.” Depression is like a worn-out unwanted companion that constantly clings to me, a burden, yes, but very familiar. Over the years I have realized that there are a lot of things that I can do that don’t require prescription medications to help keep my mood fluctuations under control. They take time and effort (there is no quick and easy fix!), but its well worth it in my mind. I still have not weaned myself off of my medications entirely, but it is a goal that I someday hope to achieve and one that I constantly strive for.

These simple natural remedies and lifestyle changes can have a big impact on how you feel...

1. Eat a “happy” diet

Eating healthy can help with mood in general, but there are some foods that can help with serotonin, the chemical in the brain that contributes to “happy.” Prozac, for example, works by inhibiting serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which raises the levels in your brain. Some foods are serotonin enhancers, helping to raise those levels naturally. They include:

-Fish-oil, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids
-Healthy fat, such as coconut oil
-Flaxseed oil
-Sour cherries

omega 3

2. Steer clear of your coffee

While there are many claims for the benefits of coffee, when it comes to depression, it just doesn’t mix well. It’s true that caffeine will give you a quick boost in your mood, but you’re going to come crashing down. Being exhausted but wired and over-caffeinated doesn’t do anything good for the chemicals that regulate mood, and can in fact affect serotonin synthesis in the brain. This has been noted by the increase of 5-HIA, a component of serotonin, seen in the urine of coffee drinkers. This makes them at risk for lower levels of this all-important neurotransmitter.

3. Drink green tea

I know this seems terribly counterintuitive to number 4, seeing as how green tea also contains caffeine, but it has one other extremely important constituent: L-theanine. L-theanine works synergistically with caffeine to boost mood in such a way that you don’t get the same crash-effect. It has its psychoactive properties because it is able to cross the blood-brain barrier, and has been shown to reduce stress as well as boost dopamine and the brain inhibitory transmitter GABA.

You will need…
-1 cup of boiling water
-1 green tea bag

First thing in the morning, with your breakfast, steep a cup of hot, fresh, green tea. Drink the whole thing.

green tea

4. Meditate

My parents were never happy with the fact that I had to be on prescription medications, but they were in a tough spot, because I was in dire need of them. However, they also took me to a therapist and my Dad encouraged meditation to help deal with my mood. He meditates every day for 45 minutes, and would coach me along when I had the patience. It’s a hard thing to do, but it really helps. We become so out of touch with ourselves and smothered by our thoughts we lose the ability to reflect and sift through our minds-an indispensable tool if you need to cope with depression, anxiety, OCD, or anything along those lines. Start small-maybe 2-3 minutes a day-and work your way up from there.

You will need…
-A quiet place
-Some time

Find a quiet place to retreat to where you won’t be interrupted. Turn off your phone, close the door, etc. etc. Regulate your breathing, and attempt to let go of your thoughts. Don’t think too hard about not thinking though-if something pops into your head, acknowledge it, and let it go. This is just one basic start to meditating-there’s tons of different ways you can go about it, and where you choose to take it and how far is up to you.

5. Try acupuncture

There is a lot of back and forth about acupuncture, but I say keep an open mind. There have been a number of studies that have shown acupuncture helps with pain, and may help with depression and anxiety as well. When the needle enters your skin at one of the 400 body points used by acupuncturists, your body responds by releasing endorphins. This makes you feel calm, happy, and relaxed, and many people say this feeling lasts long after the session is over.

You will need…
-A licensed acupuncturist

Look up a reputable acupuncturist, pick up the phone, and set up an appointment.

6. Drink chamomile tea

Depression goes hand in hand with sleep problems. It’s like you can’t get out of bed during the day but can’t fall asleep at night either. It is thought that a particular flavonoid (a chemical naturally occurring in some plants) in chamomile is what contributes to its relaxing properties, and I find that having a cup before bedtime with a bit of milk and honey does help me unwind. Tuck a little lavender sleep sachet under your pillow too and you’ll have an extra relaxing boost when you curl up.

You will need…
-1 cup of boiling water
-2 teaspoons of dried chamomile or 1 teabag
-A dash of milk and honey (optional)

Boil 1 cup of water and pour over 2 teaspoons of dried chamomile (or a chamomile tea bag) and let steep for 5 minutes. If you are using a tea bag, let steep for 15. Strain, and add a little milk and honey if you like, and drink 30 minutes before bedtime.

chammomile tea

7. See a therapist

It has a negative connotation in today’s society, which ticks me off more than anything, because seeing a therapist has been something that has pulled me through many hard times. I used to hate going to see her back in middle-school and high school (I felt so abnormal) but now I appreciate those peaceful sessions where I can get some weight off of my chest. She is also a vital member of my support team should I need it. Don’t be ashamed to see someone, it’s hugely helpful and allows for some much-needed relief from your thoughts and emotions.

8. Supplement with St. John’s wort

A popular home remedy for depression comes in the form of St. John’s wort. An herbaceous plant/shrub, St. John’s wort has been used to treat various “nervous disorders” since the times of ancient Greece. It is the most effective in cases of mild to moderate depression, and is thought to work chiefly because of the effect of hypercin, one of its main constituents. Hypercin appears to affect various neurotransmitters in a similar manner to serotonin reuptake inhibitors (like medications such as Prozac, which raise the levels of serotonin accessible in the brain.) There are several other components of St. John’s wort that may contribute to the antidepressant effects, although hypercin is the most widely recognized. While this plant does seem to have less side-effect than prescription medications, it can still interfere with them, so double check before using it.

You will need…
-A high-quality supplement of St. John’s wort (usually capsule form)

The normal dosage for an adult is 300 milligrams 3 times daily, however because it can interact with other drugs, talk to a professional before delving into use.

st. johns wart

9. Increase B-vitamins

Vitamin B (namely B-12, but others as well) play an important role in the brain, producing chemicals that majorly impact mood (serotonin, dopamine, and epinephrine.) If you lack this all important vitamin, you may be shorting your mind as well as your body. Older adults, those with digestive disorders, and folks who are vegetarians may find that they have a hard time getting enough of B-vitamins (it is found in many meats.) You can either take supplements or add more B vitamin rich food to your diet, such as:

-Fish (Mackerel, 3 oz. serving): 269% DV*
-Cheese (Swiss, 1 oz. serving):16% DV
-Shellfish (cooked clams, 3 oz. serving): 1401% DV
-Spinach (1 cup cooked): 22% DV
-Bell peppers (1 cup raw): 13.50% DV
-Turkey (4 oz. serving) 32% DV

*DV stands for daily value, and is based off of a 2,000 calorie a day diet. The percentage value represents how much of a recommended amount of something you are getting. So if milk had 30% DV for calcium, you would be getting 30% of the total calcium you need for the day.

bell pepper

10. More magnesium!

We underestimate the importance of magnesium! It is the 4th most abundant mineral in the body that is supplemented through diet, and is a cofactor in over 300 enzyme systems that regulate a wide range of biomechanical functions in the body. Without it we wouldn’t produce energy, we couldn’t synthesize DNA or RNA, or regulate our heartbeats, and we can’t keep the chemicals in our brain stable. Our modern diets often times nix foods that have magnesium, and stress also depletes it (and who doesn’t get stressed?) No living organism is able to produce it. We need to eat it, to put it bluntly. So take a supplement, or follow the best route-add magnesium rich foods to your diet.

Try eating…
-1 ounce of dry roasted almonds or cashews: 20% DV
-1/2 cup of cooked black beans: 15% DV
-1 medium banana: 8% DV
-1/2 cup of boiled spinach: 20% DV
-1 cup of soymilk: 15% DV

When it doubt, go for the nuts and dark leafy greens.

magnesium depression remedy

11. Exercise

So this is no great secret, and you’ve probably heard it before (and many of you have probably brushed it off) but exercise is fundamental to mood. I don’t mean go for a 30 minute jog every day, even just a fifteen minute walk through the neighborhood does wonders. Exercise releases endorphins in the brain, and endorphins are what make us feel good and happy.

I ignored this advice for a long, long, time until a particularly bad bout of depression landed me in the hospital for two weeks. After that I lay in bed, hardly eating, barely talking, and staring off into space, until I got a dog. I needed this dog, you see, because I would not leave the house otherwise. With an energetic puppy on my hands, I had no choice but to haul my sorry self out the door and move about. And it was incredible. To this day if I start to sink into the couch my dog is bouncing off the walls and forcing me to get up, and afterwards I always feel better. It’s tough to do, but worth it.

12. Utilize light therapy

Light therapy is particularly useful if you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (your mood is affected by winter days that have limited sun) but can also be beneficial to major depression as well. One of the first things I got when I returned from that lovely little jaunt to the hospital was a bright light that was made to treat SAD, and had a built in timer to make sure I got the right amount of light. Light therapy may work to elevate mood by activating the brains “circadian pacemaker” which regulates sleep cycles. Since depression is so closely linked to sleep troubles, there’s very likely a correlation.

light therapy for depression

13. Load up on pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds contain healthy fats and magnesium, both of which can help lighten your mood. They also contain L-tryptophan, an amino acid that is involved in the production of serotonin.

You will need…
-1 cup of pumpkin seeds

Eat 1 generous cup of pumpkin seeds once a day. I like to sprinkle mine with just a teensy tiny bit of salt to add a little boost to their already delicious and nutty flavor.

pumpkin seeds

What I have experienced (personally) is that prescriptions these days are handed out at the mention of a single symptom of depression (Oh you don’t want to get out of bed in the morning? Here’s 25 milligrams of Prozac!) and that has led to some serious problems. I don’t think the path to dealing with depression is made of prescription bottles, but that’s not something you’ll hear a doctor say often. Dealing with depression isn’t just one thing-it’s a whole mish-mash of lifestyle changes and it takes work. Whether or not you need prescription medication, working in some natural depression remedies can better your mood and, maybe, help you learn to get away from all the drugs.

Tip: Exercise and diet change aren’t instant fixes, but they are so important. We spend so much time skirting around them and trying to find all these shortcuts, when really, nothing can replace these two vital components of life.

I think the happiest human is the one who is closest to their intended natural state of being (i.e. not eating overly-processed foods, and not being sedentary all day.) Do your best to form these habits-they will pay off.

We Want to Hear from You! Let us know which remedies work and do not work for you, ask a question or leave a comment:


  1. lauren says:

    Just wanted to say as soon as I read about all the vitamins and green tea and all of the other goodies to help maintain a stress free. .. or less stress lifestyle. I have decided to try most of the list you have put together. So thank you very interested to see what becomes of it all. Thank you again.

  2. Suzie says:

    Hi Claire,
    this is really interesting reading. Like you I have battled against depression (for me since my teens) and a serious serotonin imbalance. I was heavily medicated for a number of those years. I’m happy to say I managed to stay off drugs for the past few years , and most of the things you recommend are part of my daily routines, great advice here. Other things helped me at different times and psychotherapy helped with my cognitive behaviour. I have no intention of ever being medicated again!
    Can I just add that here in France hawthorn tea is drunk regularly to help combat anxiety and stress and is considered good for emotional depression.

    • Claire (Everyday Roots) says:

      Way to go!!! That’s no small feat to manage Suzie. I am glad to hear you’ve found ways to manage naturally-and thank you for sharing your insight and experience! I wish you endless happy days 🙂

  3. Rachel L says:

    I came across your blog first by the “22 Natural Sore Throat Remedies to Help Soothe the Pain” article — which my husband and I both are using currently, with success! Every article I have read has been so well-informed and helpful. I cannot wait for your book! Thanks for your honesty and sharing your light with the rest of us.

    • Claire (Everyday Roots) says:

      Thank you so much Rachel!! I am glad to hear the site is helping you two. I can’t wait to share the book with everyone-I am chugging along and nearing the end! 🙂

  4. Valarie says:

    Hi claire; I suffer from depression for years now its taking over my life I am tired all the time: all my friends are and don’t seem to miss them no strength to exercise; I also love gardening but too depress to care any more

    • Kristen says:

      Hi, I ran across Claire’s list here and instantly became interested bc I too have suffered for years. I must say I am better now than I was two-three years ago but still have “those days”!
      I read your comment and simply want to extend a hand out (or I suppose a reply?). It’s been a while since your post but want to ask how you are doing? I do completely understand how you feel and I’m very sorry to hear your depression is eating at you so aggressively.
      I hope you are at least doing better but either way, I am here.

  5. Marjorie says:

    Where did you get the light? I know sunlight is very important to me.

  6. Carolyn says:

    I was having back pain for quite sometime, I mean lower back pain. I did putting some EO’s oil , cold compress and putting back support. I feel pain if I’m seating too long or if the chair is low. If I’m driving getting down is painful in a few second I’m fine. There is no problem if I’m walking or doing chores at home, just don’t bend down. Doing my walking exercise Mon- Fri for 45 to 1 hrs. No problem. Can you tell me what remedy to use. Thx

  7. Suzie says:

    Thanx for all this good info

  8. Elizabeth says:

    Hi Claire
    Wow!!! After reading all the above comments helped me to become brave enough to join in. I too suffer from depression and have lost interest in doing many things I used to like doing.
    Claire; your personal story has brought a new light and hope into my world; I’m gonna give it a whirl and wish for the best.
    Thank you for all your wonderful suggestions and providing one with hope.

  9. Amy says:

    Hi Claire,
    I’ve just recently come to terms with my depression realizing that I’ve suffered with this on and off for years chalking it up to just being a lazy person who can’t hold on to friendships. I’ve actually had people tell me that I just like being miserable and stay that way on purpose!
    Last month I lost my job and was forced to relocate an hour away from home where I don’t know anyone. I no longer have health insurance or the energy to set It up so seeing my doctor isn’t an option. Your article is the first thing in a while that has given me hope that I can at least get this under control enough to get out of my own way so I can get the medical help I need.
    Thank you so much for putting yourself out there so others know it’s not just them and it’s a lot more than just “being sad and lazy”.

    • Kaly says:

      This is a great article. I would suggest reading about niacin supplementation. It’s OTC and please use the flush kind for optimal benefits. Use along with vitamin C to see benefits. This has helped me immensely.
      Also read about methyl folate supplements along with b12.
      Good luck and feel better soon.

      • Kaly says:

        I forgot to add this. Take pure Niacin, not flush free or timed release for optimal benefits. Also cold showers have had good benefits for me. I haven’t read all the reviews yet so i don’t know if someone has already mentioned these before, I will vouch for it.

  10. Charles Miller says:

    Claire, thanks for the article. I have been suffering from depression from many years. I am on medications and looking a way to get out of it or at least use only natural remedies. Depression cannot be cured at the symptom level (medications), it has to be cured at the root of it (mind). At the root are recurring and compulsive negative thought that drain our energy and makes us depressed. My biggest life discovery was to encounter and read Eckhart Tolle’s books. I suggest you reading about it, or watching the many YouTube videos he has made. The main book is The Power of Now, the 2nd book is A New Earth. I hope this information can be helpful to finally get rid of your depression at the root.

  11. LeeAnne says:

    Any suggestions for a teenage niece who is suffering from depression? Specifically the St. john’s wort, B vitamins and magnesium – how much should a teen take? Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom.

  12. Guna says:

    Can you give us a link to the light you use? Thanks!

  13. Stephany says:

    I didn’t realize I had problems. I always thought I just had a very excessive amount of energy. But I crash. I’ve been labeled by doctors here and there. I’m told I’m wired wrong but fixable.
    All these home remedies are great. But reading them I realize there in my diet already, maybe even excessively. I have arthris in my knee and I’m getting ready for a surgery. I used to work out everyday for the last 3 to 4 yrs. Lately I have no desire. I want to find things to do. I want an adventure. I work but I’d like to have something to look forward to. To make me feel like I make a difference. I have a great family. But sometimes family tunes it out. Oh it’s mom in her mood. Or get over it. Or snap out of it. Wish it were that easy

  14. Julie says:

    I just read that St. John’s Wort should not be taken with certain birth control pills (Loestrin, Minastrin), since it can interfere with hormones preventing pregnancy. FYI 🙂 Otherwise great list!

  15. cortney says:

    I am still trying new ways to fight my depression and yet still at age 14 this has not yet been dealt with or been told to my parents but these have seemed to help so thank you!

  16. matthew says:

    Various herbs and roots and teas you have mentioned are very help full. tried and true. A friend of mine introduced me to Valerian root to help with stress. Depression can be a long long battle, and remedy’s do help very much, and I do support the use of them. My friends, the root of your depression may be not because of you. things that may have happened in the past, things that may be out of control right now that you cant fix, that probably aren’t even your problem. Natural supplements do help, but at the same time exercise help so much, just walk. walk towards the sun. And leave the shadows and darkness behind you.

  17. Jennifer says:

    I’ve battled Mental Health issues most of my life… and your ideas make sense to me… Especially the Magnesium. So, for starters I’m going to try an supplement, and see if that makes a difference! I’m far healthier than I was 7 years ago, but I cannot get past this low energy, and obesity… Which occurred when I was put on some very nasty meds. I’m on the right meds now, but I feel there is more in the natural, and healthier side I can start doing!

    • Gas Hunjan says:

      Good intense short cardio would go very long in helping you stabilise as intense workout releases certain flavonoid to repair the worked-out muscles and the same flavonoids help elliviate mood. Try some thig for 3-weeks and notice the improvement! They’re almost addictive!
      Wish you best, Govindra.

  18. Gas Hunjan says:

    Hi Claire,
    I follow your website regularly. By providing amazing and simple alternatives to heavy medicines, you’re doing a great service.
    Regarding serotonin, I help myself with saffron, which is the richest for of naturally occurring serotonin. At times, we add it to the food we cook, by simply placing a few strands of it in a spoon of warm water to ‘steep’ and then add to the main dish after it’s cooked. Eastern recipes don’t appreciate cooking or boiling saffron. One must be careful else they say you’d loose it’s beneficial value.
    Saffron even helps to feel full in case one is fasting carbohydrates.

  19. Courtney says:

    I’m looking forward to trying these! I’m trying as much as I can to help my mom with her depression and right now she just can’t manage. Thank you for compiling this list! I feel as though it will greatly help me!

  20. Pamela Dipzinski says:

    I’m so happy that someone has listed so many ways to help with depression/anxiety without pharma. I have suffered from anxiety and depression since I was a small child. As a pre-home computer adult, I had to do all of my own research through the library and books ordered from the bookstore. My parents just thought it was an attention-getting behavior on my part. I come from a ‘medical’ family and they pushed the drugs. I tried so many, but couldn’t deal with the side effects. I started with exercise, sunlight and fresh air. Then I moved on to chamomile, etc. I have been training myself in herbals for years and try to help others when I can. Good work!!

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