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Non-Prescription Medications for Depression

By Eliza Martinez ; Updated August 14, 2017

Many people with depression are uncomfortable taking a continuous regimen of prescription drugs, and opt to use supplements as a treatment for their condition. Depression is characterized by a loss in energy, a loss in pleasurable activities, sadness, hopelessness, a variety of physical complaints, and suicidal thoughts. Patients with mild or moderate depression can benefit from alternative methods of treatment, but should talk to their doctor first because many supplements can interfere with other drugs being taken. Additionally, most of these supplements are not FDA approved and have no studies to back up the benefits and risks of long-term use.

St. John's Wort

St. John's wort is perhaps the most widely used supplement to treat mild to moderate depression. It has not been proven to do so, but many people report a decrease in negative symptoms when they are taking it regularly. It is not recommended for major depression because this type of depression requires a stronger treatment to be successfully controlled. St. John's wort has several side effects, including dizziness, stomach problems and fatigue. In addition, it is not recommended to take St. John's wort if already using a medication for heart problems, seizures, depression or birth control due to the possibility of a negative reaction to the combination of drugs.


There are several vitamins and minerals that have been known to have a positive effect on depression. B vitamins are one example. When a person has a deficiency in B vitamins, he can experience symptoms that mimic depression and anxiety such as fatigue, sleep problems, stress and nervousness. When B vitamins are taken in supplement form, they can decrease the problems by helping the brain maintain proper levels of serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, which affect mood. Another example is zinc, which is present in all cells in the body. When zinc is low, a person can feel depressed. Studies are being conducted to see if zinc is an effective treatment for depression. Finally, magnesium lowers anxiety and depression symptoms as well. Many people find that taking a supplement containing any of these vitamins can help ease their symptoms of depression.

Kava Kava

Kava kava has been used for many years due to its ability to promote relaxation. It has been used to treat occasional bouts of depression. Kava kava is absorbed quickly and has a sedative effect, which can be beneficial for minor and intermittent episodes of depression. New studies show that kava kava could cause serious liver damage, so care should be taken if a person uses this. Other side effects include skin problems and drowsiness.

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