Treating Anxiety and Depression with Over the Counter Supplements

Reducing symptoms at the supermarket and/or pharmacy

We are often asked by patients if there are herbal supplements that we could recommend to help with symptoms of anxiety and depression. Typically these are from clients that have been suffering with symptoms for awhile but are reluctant to try prescription medications for a variety of reasons (e.g. fear of side effects, expense, worries about prescription anxiolytics, etc…). Here is a list that we have compiled that may be helpful.

Many of these supplements have had research studies associated with prolonged use but It is important to note that there are no regulated manufacturing standards in place for many herbal compounds. Some marketed supplements have been found to be contaminated with toxic metals or other drugs, especially those that are not manufactured within the United States, Canada, the EU and the UK. Herbal/health supplements should be purchased from a reliable source to minimize the risk of contamination. This blog post is not intended to be medical advice. Rather, it is intended to expose the reader to supplements or alternatives to some medications. Be cautious when using any supplement as they may cause side effects that can worsen symptoms of underlying conditions, or interact with other prescription or over-the-counter medications. Note, that while not classified as medications, most herbal remedies and supplements cause some side effects. Additionally, the concentrations of active components in these supplements are not closely regulated and can vary widely from brand to brand. Consult your physician before beginning any treatment with these or any supplements.

1. Vitamins and minerals. A wide variety of vitamins and minerals have been investigated for their potential role in depression. Some of the nutritional treatments which have been researched include vitamin B12, chromium, ​ inositol and vitamin B complex. An adequate, well-balanced diet will provide all the vitamins and minerals needed by the individual for good health and emotional balance. Many patients report that after B12 supplements, their mental “fog” is reduced, they have more energy and clarity. Vitamin B-complex: B vitamins help reduce stress and stabilize moods. Vitamin B6 should specifically be considered as a natural remedy for anxiety symptoms, because one of the signs of B6 deficiency is anxiety itself. Vitamin B6 helps to boost mood, balance blood sugar levels, and maintain a healthy nervous system.

2. Herbal Supplements:

  • Rhodiola rosea, used traditionally as a tonic in Norway, Sweden, Iceland and Russia as an herbal antidepressant and stress-reliever. In addition, it has long been used by herbalists as an adaptogen, meaning that it is thought to be able to help people better cope with the effects of stress. While American and European research is still in its early stages, this herb does appear to have some action as an antidepressant and it has a good safety record. According to a review published in 2016, there were very few clinical trials examining Rhodiola rosea and its effect on depression. As an additional benefit, It also appears to reduce chronic headaches and migraines
  • St. John’s wort has a long history of usage, going back to ancient times. In the modern world, it has become a popular depression remedy as well, backed by increasing support in the medical literature. It’s reported side effects are uncommon and rare, including dry mouth, dizziness, constipation, gastrointestinal symptoms, and confusion. It can also interact with certain other medications. Experts also recommend the usage of sunscreen with this herb due to the potential for creating sun sensitivity. Dosages are variable and depend on the product formulation.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids are very important for health; but, since our bodies can’t make them from scratch, they must be obtained from the foods that we eat. Unfortunately, we tend to not eat enough of these in order to maintain a proper balance in our bodies, which is believed to contribute to depression and other health issues. However, a review published in 2017 says that while promising, the research results on omega-3 fatty acids for depression are mixed. While omega-3 fatty acid supplements, generally derived from fish oil, are quite safe, some people may experience stomach upset and fishy burps with higher doses. In addition, doctors warn that they may increase the effects of blood-thinning medications. The FDA recommends not going over 3 g per day without your doctor’s permission due to a potentially increased risk for bleeding. If you do not wish to use this supplement, you can consider making foods that are high in omega 3s a large percentage of your diet. You can find a list of these here:
  • SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) is produced in our bodies from the essential amino acid methionine and the energy-producing compound adenosine triphosphate (ATP). It can also be taken as a dietary supplement. SAMe plays a role in methylation, a process involved in the regulation of neurotransmitters like serotonin so it could possibly play a role in depression. Studies indicate that it may relieve depression as well as an older type of antidepressants called tricyclic antidepressants.
  • 5-HTP: This is synthesized from tryptophan, an amino acid that acts as a mood stabilizer. By taking 5-HTP, serotonin is increased, which is a calming neurotransmitter that is associated with a significant reduction in anxiety symptoms. This is a natural supplement that should not be taken with any prescription antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium has many important roles in maintaining a healthy body, including calming the nervous system. It is also vital for GABA function. Interestingly, magnesium deficiency is a common deficiency in adults, so consider this supplement when recommending anti-anxiety treatment options. Magnesium in the chelate, citrate, or chloride forms are most beneficial, because they are absorbed best by the body. Remember to be careful with the dose because too much magnesium can lead to diarrhea. Start with a low dose and increase as needed based on anxiety symptoms. Magnesium comes in several forms from capsules you can buy at the drugstore, to powders like Calm (available at many supermarkets or on Amazon). Anecdotal reports from my patients indicate that even magnesium oil on the soles of their feet improve their ability to fall and stay asleep and adds to a calm feeling when applied to the soles of your feet in the morning. You can find high quality mineral oil online
  • Ashwagandha: This is one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic healing and is frequently referred to as the “Indian ginseng.” It is a highly rejuvenating herb that reduces anxiety without causing drowsiness, and it helps to stabilize the body’s response to stress. You can find it in health food stores, Amazon, some pharmacies and some supermarkets. Patients report that taking this daily (typically in capsule form) really improves their ability to manage the stressors of daily life.
  • Niacin: (AKA Vitamin B3) acts as a remedy to adrenaline, which is often over-produced in those suffering from anxiety. is a water-soluble B-complex vitamins It’s essential for DNA repair, synthesis of steroidal hormones and energy metabolism. Niacin can relax the muscle tissue composing arteries, increasing their diameter – a process called vasodilation. This leads to increased blood flow and reduces blood pressure and raises HDL levels while reducing LDL levels to further improve cardiovascular health. Some researchers believe that niacin may also help to reduce anxiety and depression, while promoting better sleep patterns. High niacin doses can cause flushing, which is a condition that causes blood vessels to widen. This makes the capillaries under the skin expand to allow more blood to flow, causing the skin to become red and itchy. A way to avoid this side effect is to look for niacin that is listed as “no flush” on the label. You can find niacin in most pharmacies and large stores like Walmart and Target (Us and Canada).
  • Kava root: This is a non-addictive and non-hypnotic anxiolytic. Reviews suggests that there are significant effects from kava treatment on anxiety with only a few mild adverse effects. These include headache, drowsiness, and diarrhea. Kava can interact with certain medications, so it should be taken under the guidance of a health care provider. Kava tends to be sold as a tincture.
  • Valerian Root: This has been found to naturally increase the amount of gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, which helps regulate nerve cells and calm anxiety. The benzodiazepine medications work this same way. Valerian is often sold as an herbal supplement.

These are not the only supplements that can be beneficial. Reactions to supplements are highly subjective and personal. We are always interested in what people find effective. If there is something that you are using with success, that is not listed above, we’d love to hear your experiences. Drop us a line and let us know using the CONTACT US button or>

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