Depression is the most common psychiatric disorder. It affects about 121 million adults worldwide. Major depressive disorder (MDD) is just one type of depression. It’s categorized by feelings of extreme sadness for long or extended periods of time.  

Antidepressant drugs are commonly used to treat depressive disorders including MDD. Natural remedies, including vitamins and supplements, may also help those dealing with depression. These remedies aren’t replacements for traditional treatment methods, including medications and psychotherapy, but can be beneficial.

Here are natural antidepressants, vitamins, and supplements used for the treatment of MDD.

St. John’s wort

St John’s Wort is a product of a wild-grown shrub. It’s been used for hundreds of years, and is especially popular in Europe. However, it can interfere with a number of medications, including various antidepressants. Make sure you talk with your doctor prior to starting St. John’s wort supplements.  

S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine (SAMe)

This is a synthetic supplement made from naturally occurring proteins in the body. It’s been used to treat depression and anxiety, as well as osteoarthritis and liver disease. In fact, SAMe is widely used as an approved prescription drug in several European countries. Research has shown that this supplement can be an effective alternative treatment for depression, and may even work faster than conventional antidepressants.

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), is a hormone that’s naturally produced by the body. Changes in levels of DHEA have been linked to depression. The supplement form comes from a wild Mexican yam. In studies, DHEA has been seen to influence the making and releasing of endorphins, or the “feel good” hormones, in the body.

5-HTP

This is another naturally occurring chemical in the body. Its role is to help the body increase serotonin. Since 5-HTP triggers an increase in the production of serotonin, it acts the same as some prescription antidepressants. It’s often used as treatment for diseases where serotonin levels may be low.

Omega-3 fatty acids

Since our bodies can’t make omega-3, we need to get it through either food or supplements. All types of fish deliver some omega-3 fatty acids, but salmon, herring, sardines, and canned tuna are some of the richest sources. Farmed fish can actually be lower in omega-3s than wild caught fish. Omega-3 supplements, also known as fish oil capsules, are also available.

B vitamins

Several reports have shown that patients diagnosed with conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, and memory or learning disorders typically have lower than normal levels of folic acid. Proper amounts of folic acid, vitamin B-12, and vitamin B-6 are important for proper brain functions. They can directly influence learning, memory, and mood. Studies have shown that the B vitamins, especially folic acid and vitamin B-6, may actually increase the effectiveness of prescription antidepressants.

Minerals

Intake of magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc has shown positive effects when it comes to depressive symptoms. A diet high in zinc has been shown to decrease the incidence of depression in both men and women. Individuals taking zinc supplements also had improvement in their moods and reduced anger and hostility.

Just like prescription antidepressants, natural antidepressants and supplements don't work for everyone. Always talk with your doctor before trying any alternative or natural remedy. Some of these may interfere with or counteract against your standard treatment or medications.