Alternative Medicine for Depression

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Alternative medicine involves the use of many non-mainstream techniques to try and deal with a medical condition. This lesson outlines some of them with respect to depression.

A Serious Mood Disorder

Just a sad mood? No. Depression is actually much worse than that as it is a mood disorder with potentially life-threatening consequences. The treatment options for depression are highly varied and involve combinations of medication, psychotherapy, and other treatment procedures.

Another treatment avenue is the use of alternative medicine for depression. The evidence on the efficacy of this lesson's content for depression varies from none to some, so you should always talk to your doctor before starting, stopping, or changing any treatment plan. This is doubly true if you have any other medical conditions or are taking any medication.

This lesson simply focuses on some potential general alternative treatment modalities available for depression.

The Basics of Depression

Before we can get to that, we need to understand some very basic things about depression. Doing so will help you better appreciate why some of the alternative medicine options exist and how they might help someone with depression.

Depression can be caused by a wide variety of factors, sometimes in combination. Stress or emotional issues may bring about or worsen depression. Medical conditions involving hormonal or neurotransmitter imbalances can result in depression. Such conditions could involve malfunctions of the thyroid or adrenal glands. Some medication may also lead to depression.

But there's more. You are what you eat, right? Well, only to an extent, of course. See, depression could be caused by improper nutrition, food allergies, as well as the use and abuse of drugs, including alcohol.

Alternative Medicine for Depression


Let's start with diet then. Just remember that all of this suggested information is considered to be alternative medicine. There is often little to no evidence of efficacy, so talk to your doctor about any of this information first.

A bad diet may lead to or worsen depression. Thus, it makes sense that a balanced diet with whole grains and vegetables may help some people with depression. Why? Complex carbohydrates might increase a person's serotonin levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter. Recall how you just learned that imbalances of neurotransmitter levels may lead to or worsen depression. And so, low levels of serotonin are believed by some to contribute to depression, hence the need for a balanced diet, one with complex carbohydrates. Imbalances between omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids may also contribute to depression. Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, may help as a result.

But you also learned that food allergies may play a role in depression. Therefore, it's important to avoid certain foods you may be allergic to which might worsen your depression, such as wheat. People who consume alcohol may also want to consider avoiding this beverage/drug since alcohol is a depressant itself.


Other than food and drink, other things we may ingest include supplements. You can find a ton of them at a local drugstore. These supplements, some of which are believed to help improve the signs and symptoms of depression include the likes of:

  • SAMe, or S-adenosylmethionine. This supplement might alter the balance of neurotransmitters in your brain in order to improve your mood.
  • 5-HTP, or 5-hydroxytryptophan. Why might this help? It's a precursor molecule to serotonin, the neurotransmitter we learned about in the last section.
  • St. John's Wort, a plant that may be helpful for mild to moderate depression.
  • Various amino acids, such as DLPA and L-tyrosine may help with depression. However, these must be taken with diligent caution in people who are taking antidepressants or antianxiety medication.
  • Homeopathic supplements, such as Arsenicum album and Aurum metallicum are sometimes advised by homeopathic practitioners.


Other than the food, supplements, and drinks, alternative medicine for depression includes some very famous techniques. Chief among them, acupressure, the application of pressure to specific points on the body. Practitioners of acupressure may use lung 1 and stomach 36 points in order to try and ease depression.

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