Top 10 Evidence-Based Natural Remedies for Depression

You are here:

Table of Contents

Mental health is a critical aspect of overall well-being, and mild to moderate depression affects over 16 million American adults each year. While prescription antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are common treatments, they often come with side effects.

Known side effects of antidepressants include:

  • Serotonin syndrome (symptoms include agitation, confusion, rapid heartbeat, high fever, tremors, muscle stiffness, dilated pupils, and sweating)
  • Headaches, dizziness, or blurred vision
  • Nausea, indigestion, or other gastrointestinal issues

Is there a quick cure for depression? There is no quick fix for depression because the causes of depression can vary significantly from person to person. 

Fortunately, several evidence-based natural remedies may be just as effective as medication in relieving even severe depression symptoms caused by various triggers. They’re widely used by mental health providers.

It takes time to find an optimal treatment plan for each patient, but in my experience with patients, it’s worth the effort. Once a treatment plan has been decided, it can also take time to begin seeing results.

To discuss how we can help, please click here to book a free consultation.

Subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed on Health Topics like this!
Get primehealth updates right to your inbox

1. Setting Routines

Establishing daily routines for sleep, nutrition, and physical activity can provide structure and reduce anxiety, which often accompanies depression. Plus, it’s easiest to make gradual lifestyle changes if you have routines already in place.

2. Prioritize Quality Sleep

Adequate sleep is crucial for mental and physical health. Insomnia can exacerbate mental health issues, making enough sleep (especially quality sleep) essential.

3. Nourish Your Body

A balanced diet plays a significant role in mental health. Opt for whole, nutrient-rich foods to support your overall well-being. A healthy diet generally includes whole foods over processed foods and foods rich in nutrients.

4. Increase Your Physical Activity

Physical activity can have a big impact on treating symptoms of depression. Regular exercise reduces inflammation linked to depression and other mental health problems. It doesn’t have to be high-intensity either. Even a simple walk can make a big difference in your mental health.

5. Try Yoga

Yoga is a popular form of low-impact exercise that incorporates physical postures and intentional breathing. Practicing yoga can lead to health benefits like improved strength, flexibility, and peace of mind

6. Go Outside

Simply getting more sunlight can help to relieve depression. Sunlight is essential for maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D. Deficiencies in vitamin D have been linked to poor mental health.

Light therapy has long been used to help those with seasonal affective disorder, but it also shows promising results in helping people with other forms of depression and mental illness.

Beyond the importance of sunlight, simply interacting with nature may improve mood and memory. That’s all the more reason to get out for a stroll through your local park!

7. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness techniques can improve emotional regulation and well-being. Here are some mindfulness practices to incorporate:

  • Unplug: Reducing screen time and unplugging daily can help manage mood disorders. Individuals who spend over 4 hours per day of screen time are more likely to suffer.
  • Meditation: Meditation practices enhance mood, memory, and focus. Regular meditation can be a valuable complementary treatment for depression.
  • Keep a journal: Journaling helps build awareness of thought patterns and triggers. Positive affect journaling, like keeping a gratitude list, focuses on positive aspects of life and reduces mental distress.

8. Seek Counseling

In the most familiar form of psychotherapy, you with a licensed provider to discuss your symptoms and methods of coping. This is known as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Studies show that just 6-8 weeks of psychotherapy can be effective in relieving depression. 

Depending on the root behind your depression, it may be helpful to look into other types of therapy and counseling other than CBT known to help with depression, like:

  • Psychodynamic Therapy: Explores past experiences and unconscious processes to understand and address your current feelings.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): A specialized therapy using guided eye movements to help process traumatic memories and reduce their negative impact, often used for people with trauma-related depression.
  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT): Focuses on improving the quality of your interpersonal relationships and communication patterns.
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): Combines cognitive-behavioral techniques with mindfulness strategies, targeting emotional regulation.
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT): Merges cognitive therapy with meditation practices to prevent depression relapse.
  • Narrative Therapy: Helps individuals rewrite their life story in a positive and meaningful way.
  • Art Therapy: Uses creative expression as a form of healing and self-exploration.

Community support groups may also help with depression. Support groups provide a safe space for individuals to share their struggles. However, it may take 6 months or more to see improvement from support groups alone.

9. Take Supplements

Some dietary supplements may help combat nutritional deficiencies related to depression. Others may have natural antidepressant properties, impacting the neurotransmitters in our brains.

Note: When I work with patients one-on-one, I first take a full medical history and discuss any prescriptions and supplements my patient is already taking. We don’t start any natural treatments — supplements included — without ensuring it addresses the root cause of their mental health concerns and doesn’t interfere with other medications or supplements.

I encourage you to do this, too! Don’t start a new supplement regimen without first discussing it with your healthcare provider.

Here are some over-the-counter supplements that can help with depression:

  • St. John’s Wort: St. John’s wort (aka hypericum perforatum) is a wild plant from Asia and Europe, used as an herbal remedy for mood issues. It can influence neurotransmitters and has shown effectiveness comparable to antidepressant medications in some studies.
  • Ginseng: Ginseng has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. It helps regulate the body’s response to stress. It also has natural anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show that ginseng can reduce symptoms of stress-related depression.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that can be found in fish oil, seeds, and nuts. They are important for brain health and development. Studies show that omega-3 supplementation can be effective in helping to treat major depression. 
  • B Vitamins: Long-term supplementation with B vitamins such as folate, B12, and B6 play important roles in producing and regulating neurotransmitters. B vitamin deficiencies can negatively impact levels of dopamine, serotonin, and GABA, all of which boost mood.
  • Vitamin C: We know vitamin C deficiency can cause physical ailments like scurvy, but it can also impact mental health. Taking vitamin C can improve overall mood and decrease symptoms of depression.
  • Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiency affects 40% of American adults and has been linked to mental health issues. Supplementation may reduce symptoms of depression and improve quality of life. Just be sure to take it with vitamin K2, so your body can properly absorb it.
  • Magnesium: Magnesium plays a key role in central nervous system function and the regulation of neurotransmitter activity. It may also help to treat depression

What vitamin is a natural antidepressant? Vitamins that serve as natural antidepressants include B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin D (taken with vitamin K2 for proper absorption). 

10. Alternatives to Consider

Here are some alternative treatments for depression to discuss with a healthcare professional. Some of these are available in over-the-counter as well as prescription forms. Others may only be prescribed or administered by a licensed professional.

Alternative medicinal remedies for depression include:

What natural things can you take for depression? There is a long list of natural supplements and alternative therapies you can take for depression. These include St. John’s Wort, ginseng, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins B, C, and D, magnesium, SAMe, NAC, 5-HTP, and ketamine.

What to Avoid

Sometimes your health issues, mental and otherwise, can be less about what you’re lacking and more about what you’re getting too much of. 

Here are some things to avoid for your physical and emotional wellness:

  • Alcohol: Alcohol consumption is associated with a greater risk of health conditions, including multiple types of cancer and worsening psychiatric disorders. While many people drink to “take the edge off,” that cocktail might have the opposite effect long-term.
  • Excess Sugar: Added sugars are common in a host of Western foods. Unfortunately, consuming an excess of these sugars can negatively impact a number of biological factors that are implicated in mental health and depression.
  • Inflammatory foods: Mental health issues can result due to underlying neuroinflammation due to inflammatory foods such as seed oils, hydrogenated fats, and processed foods. 

Understanding Depression

Depression is a mood disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in daily life. The National Institute of Health (NIH) characterizes depression as a persistent feeling of sadness or loss of interest.

Other symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Decreased energy
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Frustration or irritability
  • Suicidal thoughts

We all may experience these things from time to time. What sets clinical depression apart as a mood disorder is the severity of the symptoms and their continued presence over time.

It’s important to recognize the severity of these symptoms and seek guidance from a healthcare provider.

When to Seek Help

If you or a loved one are experiencing depression symptoms or other mental health concerns, don’t hesitate to consult a trusted healthcare provider. PrimeHealth offers integrative and personalized programs to support your mental well-being.

If you are a Denver, CO resident, contact PrimeHealth today. Mental health is the foundation upon which your life is built. Make sure your foundation is a strong one. We’re here to help! 

Schedule a free consultation


  1. Waitzfelder, B., Stewart, C., Coleman, K. J., Rossom, R., Ahmedani, B. K., Beck, A., … & Simon, G. E. (2018). Treatment initiation for new episodes of depression in primary care settings. Journal of general internal medicine, 33(8), 1283-1291.
  2. Nahas, R., & Sheikh, O. (2011). Complementary and alternative medicine for the treatment of major depressive disorder. Canadian Family Physician, 57(6), 659-663.
  3. Kessler, R. C., Soukup, J., Davis, R. B., Foster, D. F., Wilkey, S. A., Van Rompay, M. I., & Eisenberg, D. M. (2001). The use of complementary and alternative therapies to treat anxiety and depression in the United States. American Journal of Psychiatry, 158(2), 289-294.
  4. Arlinghaus, K. R., & Johnston, C. A. (2019). The importance of creating habits and routine. American journal of lifestyle medicine, 13(2), 142-144.
  5. Zaman, R., Hankir, A., & Jemni, M. (2019). Lifestyle factors and mental health. Psychiatria Danubina, 31(suppl 3), 217-220.
  6. Clement-Carbonell, V., Portilla-Tamarit, I., Rubio-Aparicio, M., & Madrid-Valero, J. J. (2021). Sleep quality, mental and physical health: a differential relationship. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(2), 460.
  7. Freeman, D., Sheaves, B., Goodwin, G. M., Yu, L. M., Nickless, A., Harrison, P. J., … & Espie, C. A. (2017). The effects of improving sleep on mental health (OASIS): a randomised controlled trial with mediation analysis. The Lancet Psychiatry, 4(10), 749-758.
  8. Rao, T. S., Asha, M. R., Ramesh, B. N., & Rao, K. J. (2008). Understanding nutrition, depression and mental illnesses. Indian journal of psychiatry, 50(2), 77.
  9. Muscaritoli, M. (2021). The impact of nutrients on mental health and well-being: Insights from the literature. Frontiers in Nutrition, 97.
  10. Pearce, M., Garcia, L., Abbas, A., Strain, T., Schuch, F. B., Golubic, R., … & Woodcock, J. (2022). Association Between Physical Activity and Risk of Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA psychiatry.
  11. Belvederi Murri, M., Ekkekakis, P., Magagnoli, M., Zampogna, D., Cattedra, S., Capobianco, L., … & Amore, M. (2019). Physical exercise in major depression: reducing the mortality gap while improving clinical outcomes. Frontiers in psychiatry, 9, 762.
  12. Mikkelsen, K., Stojanovska, L., Polenakovic, M., Bosevski, M., & Apostolopoulos, V. (2017). Exercise and mental health. Maturitas, 106, 48-56.
  13. Chu, A. L., Hickman, M., Steel, N., Jones, P. B., Smith, G. D., & Khandaker, G. M. (2021). Inflammation and depression: a public health perspective. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, 95, 1-3.
  14. Woodyard, C. (2011). Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life. International journal of yoga, 4(2), 49.
  15. Brinsley, J., Schuch, F., Lederman, O., Girard, D., Smout, M., Immink, M. A., … & Rosenbaum, S. (2021). Effects of yoga on depressive symptoms in people with mental disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 55(17), 992-1000.
  16. Wang, S. J., & Chen, M. Y. (2020). The effects of sunlight exposure therapy on the improvement of depression and quality of life in post-stroke patients: A RCT study. Heliyon, 6(7), e04379.
  17. Terman, M. (2007). Evolving applications of light therapy. Sleep medicine reviews, 11(6), 497-507.
  18. Penckofer, S., Kouba, J., Byrn, M., & Estwing Ferrans, C. (2010). Vitamin D and depression: where is all the sunshine?. Issues in mental health nursing, 31(6), 385-393.
  19. Berman, M. G., Kross, E., Krpan, K. M., Askren, M. K., Burson, A., Deldin, P. J., … & Jonides, J. (2012). Interacting with nature improves cognition and affect for individuals with depression. Journal of affective disorders, 140(3), 300-305.
  20. Keng, S. L., Smoski, M. J., & Robins, C. J. (2011). Effects of mindfulness on psychological health: A review of empirical studies. Clinical psychology review, 31(6), 1041-1056.
  21. Madhav, K. C., Sherchand, S. P., & Sherchan, S. (2017). Association between screen time and depression among US adults. Preventive medicine reports, 8, 67–71. 
  22. Basso, J. C., McHale, A., Ende, V., Oberlin, D. J., & Suzuki, W. A. (2019). Brief, daily meditation enhances attention, memory, mood, and emotional regulation in non-experienced meditators. Behavioural brain research, 356, 208-220.
  23. Sohal, M., Singh, P., Dhillon, B. S., & Gill, H. S. (2022). Efficacy of journaling in the management of mental illness: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Family medicine and community health, 10(1).
  24. Smyth, J. M., Johnson, J. A., Auer, B. J., Lehman, E., Talamo, G., & Sciamanna, C. N. (2018). Online positive affect journaling in the improvement of mental distress and well-being in general medical patients with elevated anxiety symptoms: A preliminary randomized controlled trial. JMIR mental health, 5(4), e11290.
  25. Nieuwsma, J. A., Trivedi, R. B., McDuffie, J., Kronish, I., Benjamin, D., & Williams Jr, J. W. (2012). Brief psychotherapy for depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 43(2), 129-151.
  26. Gosling, R., Parry, S., & Stamou, V. (2022). Community support groups for men living with depression: barriers and facilitators in access and engagement with services. Home Health Care Services Quarterly, 41(1), 20-39.
  27. Griffiths, K. M., Mackinnon, A. J., Crisp, D. A., Christensen, H., Bennett, K., & Farrer, L. (2012). The effectiveness of an online support group for members of the community with depression: a randomised controlled trial. PloS one, 7(12), e53244.
  28. Statovci, D., Aguilera, M., MacSharry, J., & Melgar, S. (2017). The impact of western diet and nutrients on the microbiota and immune response at mucosal interfaces. Frontiers in immunology, 8, 838.
  29. Martínez-Cengotitabengoa, M., & González-Pinto, A. (2017). Nutritional supplements in depressive disorders. Actas Esp Psiquiatr, 45(1), 8-15.
  30. Butterweck, V. (2003). Mechanism of action of St John’s wort in depression. CNS drugs, 17(8), 539-562.
  31. Gaster, B., & Holroyd, J. (2000). St John’s wort for depression: a systematic review. Archives of internal medicine, 160(2), 152-156.
  32. Lee, S., & Rhee, D. K. (2017). Effects of ginseng on stress-related depression, anxiety, and the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis. Journal of ginseng research, 41(4), 589-594.
  33. Jeong, H. G., Ko, Y. H., Oh, S. Y., Han, C., Kim, T., & Joe, S. H. (2015). Effect of K orean R ed G inseng as an adjuvant treatment for women with residual symptoms of major depression. Asia‐Pacific Psychiatry, 7(3), 330-336.
  34. DiNicolantonio, J. J., & O’Keefe, J. H. (2020). The importance of marine omega-3s for brain development and the prevention and treatment of behavior, mood, and other brain disorders. Nutrients, 12(8), 2333.
  35. Zhang, M. M., Zou, Y., Li, S. M., Wang, L., Sun, Y. H., Shi, L., … & Li, S. X. (2020). The efficacy and safety of omega-3 fatty acids on depressive symptoms in perinatal women: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. Translational psychiatry, 10(1), 1-9.
  36. Kennedy, D. O. (2016). B vitamins and the brain: mechanisms, dose and efficacy—a review. Nutrients, 8(2), 68.
  37. Almeida, O. P., Ford, A. H., & Flicker, L. (2015). Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials of folate and vitamin B12 for depression. International psychogeriatrics, 27(5), 727-737.
  38. Pullar, J. M., Carr, A. C., Bozonet, S. M., & Vissers, M. (2018). High Vitamin C Status Is Associated with Elevated Mood in Male Tertiary Students. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 7(7), 91. 
  39. Lerner, P. P., Sharony, L., & Miodownik, C. (2018). Association between mental disorders, cognitive disturbances and vitamin D serum level: Current state. Clinical nutrition ESPEN, 23, 89-102.
  40. Forrest, K. Y., & Stuhldreher, W. L. (2011). Prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency in US adults. Nutrition research, 31(1), 48-54.
  41. Guzek, D., Kołota, A., Lachowicz, K., Skolmowska, D., Stachoń, M., & Głąbska, D. (2021). Association between Vitamin D Supplementation and Mental Health in Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review. Journal of clinical medicine, 10(21), 5156.
  42. Botturi, A., Ciappolino, V., Delvecchio, G., Boscutti, A., Viscardi, B., & Brambilla, P. (2020). The role and the effect of magnesium in mental disorders: a systematic review. Nutrients, 12(6), 1661.
  43. Tarleton, E. K., Littenberg, B., MacLean, C. D., Kennedy, A. G., & Daley, C. (2017). Role of magnesium supplementation in the treatment of depression: A randomized clinical trial. PloS one, 12(6), e0180067.
  44. Sharma, A., Gerbarg, P., Bottiglieri, T., Massoumi, L., Carpenter, L. L., Lavretsky, H., … & Mischoulon, D. (2017). S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe) for neuropsychiatric disorders: a clinician-oriented review of research. The Journal of clinical psychiatry, 78(6), 18881.
  45. Tenório, M. C. D. S., Graciliano, N. G., Moura, F. A., Oliveira, A. C. M. D., & Goulart, M. O. F. (2021). N-Acetylcysteine (NAC): impacts on human health. Antioxidants, 10(6), 967.
  46. Lindqvist, D., Dhabhar, F. S., James, S. J., Hough, C. M., Jain, F. A., Bersani, F. S., … & Mellon, S. H. (2017). Oxidative stress, inflammation and treatment response in major depression. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 76, 197-205.
  47. Fernandes, B. S., Dean, O. M., Dodd, S., Malhi, G. S., & Berk, M. (2016). N-Acetylcysteine in depressive symptoms and functionality: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of clinical psychiatry, 77(4), 12403.
  48. Maffei, M. E. (2020). 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP): Natural occurrence, analysis, biosynthesis, biotechnology, physiology and toxicology. International journal of molecular sciences, 22(1), 181.
  49. Javelle, F., Lampit, A., Bloch, W., Häussermann, P., Johnson, S. L., & Zimmer, P. (2020). Effects of 5-hydroxytryptophan on distinct types of depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrition reviews, 78(1), 77-88.
  50. Radvansky, B. M., Puri, S., Sifonios, A. N., Eloy, J. D., & Le, V. (2016). Ketamine—a narrative review of its uses in medicine. American Journal of Therapeutics, 23(6), e1414-e1426.
  51. Mion, G. (2017). History of anaesthesia: The ketamine story–past, present and future. European Journal of Anaesthesiology| EJA, 34(9), 571-575.
  52. Zanos, P., Moaddel, R., Morris, P. J., Riggs, L. M., Highland, J. N., Georgiou, P., … & Gould, T. D. (2018). Ketamine and ketamine metabolite pharmacology: insights into therapeutic mechanisms. Pharmacological reviews, 70(3), 621-660.
  53. Molero, P., Ramos-Quiroga, J. A., Martin-Santos, R., Calvo-Sánchez, E., Gutiérrez-Rojas, L., & Meana, J. J. (2018). Antidepressant efficacy and tolerability of ketamine and esketamine: a critical review. CNS drugs, 32(5), 411-420.
  54. Tahan, A. C., & Tahan, V. (2015). Alcohol is not Safe even at Light Amounts. Balkan Medical Journal, 32(2), 239.
  55. Berglund, M., & Ojehagen, A. (1998). The influence of alcohol drinking and alcohol use disorders on psychiatric disorders and suicidal behavior. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 22, 333s-345s.
  56. Reis, D. J., Ilardi, S. S., Namekata, M. S., Wing, E. K., & Fowler, C. H. (2020). The depressogenic potential of added dietary sugars. Medical hypotheses, 134, 109421.
  57. Proudfoot, J., Whitton, A., Parker, G., Doran, J., Manicavasagar, V., & Delmas, K. (2012). Triggers of mania and depression in young adults with bipolar disorder. Journal of affective disorders, 143(1-3), 196-202.
PrimeHealth Newsletter
Get tips & advice right to your inbox, plus stay up to date on PrimeHealth group visits and services.

Share this Post