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Depression is a very personal, intense, and confusing feeling. You can feel like the world is out of your control, and there is no person, place, or thing that can bring you back to a place of peace. While we live in a day and age where pharmaceutical pills seem to reign supreme, there is much controversy regarding how this form of medicine works against our bodies in other ways.

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Holistic healers continue to break the silence on ways to heal, mentally and physically, by using natural resources over synthetic ones. Many plant materials, for instance, are being researched for their ability to positively impact our mental health.

Here is a list of 20 natural substances that may be able to benefit our biochemistry and neurotransmitters, and amend nutrient deficiencies.

1. Kava

Kava is a root found on the South Pacific islands that is traditionally prepared as a tea. It has been found to be a safe and effective treatment for anxiety disorders and depression.

2. L-tryptophan

L-tryptophan is an amino acid that derives from plant or animal sources. It has been found to be as, if not more, effective as medications including imipramine in treating depression.

3. Saffron

Saffron is a spice derived from the flower of Crocus sativus, and has been found to be an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression.

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4. Blue-green algae

Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, are one, if not the, most successful group of microorganisms on earth. They occupy a broad range of habitats, including freshwater, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems, and serve to improve mood and reduce anxiety and depression in menopausal women.

5. Lavender

Lavender is a small aromatic evergreen shrub of the mint family, and its aroma has been linked to a multitude of health benefits, including its ability to treat insomnia and depression.

6. Lion’s Mane

Lion’s Mane mushroom is a nontoxic medicinal and culinary mushroom believed to help in the reduction of depression and anxiety.

7. The omega-3 fatty acid EPA

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) has been found to be as effective as fluoxetine, also known as Prozac, in treating major depressive disorder according to a study comparing the therapeutic effects of both over an 8-week trial period.

8. Motherwort

Motherwort is a tall, strong-smelling plant of the mint family that is thought to improve symptoms of anxiety and depression in patients with arterial hypertension.

9. Homeopathic medicine

Homeopathic medicine — a system of medicine founded in the early 19th century by a German physician Dr. Samuel Christian Hahnemann —  has been found to be as effective and more tolerable for people suffering from acute depression than Prozac.

10. Onion Powder

This quercetin-rich vegetable was found, in a rat behavioral model of depression, to have an antidepressant-like effect.

11. Panax ginseng

Panax ginseng is commonly referred to as the “true” ginseng, and extracts of it have been found to provide an antidepressant effect.

12. Rosemary

An evergreen aromatic shrub of the mint family, rosemary has been found to exhibit antidepressant actions in mice in relation to the monoaminergic system, which is the network of neurons that utilize monoamine neurotransmitters, which include serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine (and epinephrine), as well as melatonin. More studies are needed to confirm whether it is an effective treatment for humans as well, but the research is promising.

13. Folate

A B-vitamin that is naturally present in many foods, folate has been shown to play a therapeutic role in treating symptoms of depression.

14. Rhodiola

Rhodiola rosea is a perennial flowering plant in the family Crassulaceae that has been found effective in the treatment of mild to moderate depression.

15. St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort is a flowering plant in the family Hypericaceae that has been found to have a cortisol-reducing effect in the brain which may have an anti-depressive effect.

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