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Depression

For when it's beyond a bad day: Learn more about symptoms and what you can do to overcome depression. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
  • Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
  • Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
  • For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

Our proprietary "Star-Rating" system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by some in the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.

For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.

SupplementAmountWhy
EPA
1 to 2 grams daily EPA or 9.6 grams daily of total omega-3 fatty acids3 stars[3 stars]
Found in fish oil, EPA has been shown to relieve depression symptoms in some studies.
Folic Acid

(Folic Acid Deficiency)
See a doctor for evaluation3 stars[3 stars]
Taking folic acid can help correct deficiencies associated with depression.
Iron

(Iron-Deficiency Anemia)
See a doctor for evaluation3 stars[3 stars]
A lack of iron can make depression worse; check with a doctor to find out if you are iron deficient.
Vitamin B12

(Vitamin B12 Deficiency)
See a doctor for evaluation3 stars[3 stars]
Taking vitamin B12 can help counteract deficiencies related to depression.
Vitamin B6
20 mg twice daily3 stars[3 stars]
Oral contraceptives can deplete the body of vitamin B6, a nutrient needed for normal mental functioning. In such cases, vitamin B6 supplementation may improve mood.
5-HTP
Consult a qualified healthcare practitioner2 stars[2 stars]
Depression has been linked to serotonin imbalances in the brain. Supplementing with 5-HTP may increase serotonin synthesis and reduce symptoms.
Acetyl-L-Carnitine
Refer to label instructions 2 stars[2 stars]
Acetyl-L-carnitine has been shown in several studies to significantly reduce depression symptoms in seniors.
Black Cohosh and St. John's Wort

(Menopause)
Two tablets twice a day for 8 weeks, then one tablet twice a day for 8 weeks, each tablet supplying 1 mg of triterpene glycosides from black cohosh and 0.25 mg of hypericin from St. John's wort 2 stars[2 stars]
Menopausal and depression symptoms improved in post-menopausal women after they took a combination of black cohosh and St. John's wort.
DHEA
Consult a qualified healthcare practitioner2 stars[2 stars]
Some studies have reported lower DHEA levels in depressed people. However, DHEA appears to be effective for only a minority of depressed people.
Fish Oil
9.6 grams omega-3 fatty acids per day2 stars[2 stars]
Depressed people have been reported to have low amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Taking fish oil can replenish stores and stave off depression.
Folic Acid, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12
Folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 (if homocysteine levels are elevated).2 stars[2 stars]
In a double-blind trial, patients with depression were treated with antidepressant medication and were randomly assigned to receive a daily supplement containing folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12, or a placebo. The beneficial effect of the B vitamins was seen only in patients whose homocysteine levels were on the higher end (above the median) at the start of the study.
Ginkgo
240 mg daily2 stars[2 stars]
Ginkgo may alleviate depression in elderly people not responding to antidepressant drugs.
Inositol
12 grams of inositol daily2 stars[2 stars]
People with depression may have lower levels of inositol. Supplementing with this nutrient may correct a deficiency and improve depression symptoms.
L-Tryptophan
3 to 6 grams per day 2 stars[2 stars]
Several controlled trials have found L-tryptophan as effective as antidepressant medications. Depressed people should consult a doctor before use.
L-Tyrosine

Consult your doctor

2 stars[2 stars]
Some people with depression have been found to improve with tyrosine.
Melatonin
.25 to 10 mg daily under medical supervision 2 stars[2 stars]
Melatonin might help relieve depression. However, there is a possibility that it could exacerbate depression, so it should only be used for this purpose under a doctor's supervision.
Phenylalanine
3 to 4 grams L-phenylalanine or 150 to 200 mg of DL-phenylalanine daily2 stars[2 stars]
In one study, depressed people given L-phenylalanine experienced results comparable to those produced by an antidepressant.
SAMe
1,600 mg daily2 stars[2 stars]
SAMe appears to raise levels of dopamine, an important neurotransmitter in mood regulation.
Selenium
100 mcg per day 2 stars[2 stars]
Selenium deficiency may contribute to depression. Taking selenium can counteract this deficiency and improve depression symptoms.
St. John's Wort
600 to 1,200 mg daily of a standardized herbal extract containing of 0.3% hypericin, after consulting with a qualified healthcare professional2 stars[2 stars]
St. John's wort can help with mild to moderate depression--but talk to your doctor first as St. John's wort can interact with certain medications.
Vitamin B6

(Premenstrual Syndrome)
Take under medical supervision: 100 to 300 mg daily2 stars[2 stars]
Several studies indicate that supplementing with vitamin B6 helps alleviate depression, including depression associated with PMS.
Vitamin C
500 mg twice a day2 stars[2 stars]
In a double-blind study, the combination of vitamin C and an antidepressant drug (fluoxetine) was significantly more effective than the antidepressant alone.
Vitamin D
400 to 800 IU daily2 stars[2 stars]
Some studies have shown that supplementing with vitamin D leads to improved mood.
Calcium
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
Taken with vitamin D, calcium significantly improved mood in people without depression in one study.
Chromium
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
In a few case reports, chromium has improved mood in people with a type of depression called dysthymic disorder.
Damiana
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
Damiana has traditionally been used to treat people with depression.
NADH
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
One study suggested that supplementing with NADH may help people with depression.
Phosphatidylserine
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
Phosphatidylserine affects the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain related to mood and has been shown in research to reduce the severity of depression.
Pumpkin
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
Pumpkin seeds contain L-tryptophan, and for this reason have been suggested to help remedy depression.
Vervain
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
Vervain is a traditional herb used for depression.
Yohimbe
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
Yohimbine (the active component of yohimbe) inhibits monoamine oxidase and therefore may be beneficial in treating depression.
Zinc
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
In one study, the addition of a zinc supplement enhanced the beneficial effects of antidepressants.

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The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2015.