Managing Depression

Depression may be a common mental disorder but that does not mean you can’t try to reduce its debilitating effects. Read on, and learn about five supplements that are proven to help with managing depression. Maybe one of the supplement solutions below might be the help you’ve been searching for.

Depression is a mental health disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It can cause feelings of sadness and hopelessness and a loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable. The causes of depression can be complex and include genetics, stress, trauma, grief, and medication (1). Traditional medications such as antidepressants, mood stabilisers, and antipsychotics are often prescribed to help control the symptoms of depression (2). However, some people may not find these medications effective or may experience side effects. As a result, many individuals turn to supplements as a complementary approach to managing their depression symptoms.  Read on for helpful information for managing depression.

#1. Rhodiola rosea for managing depression

Rhodiola rosea for managing depression

Rhodiola rosea is a herb that has many health benefits, including the treatment of depression. The supplement, Rhodiola rosea is believed to work by increasing the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are often imbalanced in people with depression. Rhodiola rosea also increases the production of endorphins, which reduce stress and help to make us feel better (3). Rhodiola rosea also reduces inflammation and oxidative stress, which have been linked to depression (4).

Supplements made from Rhodiola rosea have been shown to help people with mild to moderate depression feel better. Another study found that Rhodiola rosea improved symptoms of depression and anxiety in people with generalised anxiety disorder (5).

While Rhodiola rosea appears to be generally safe, it can cause side effects in some people, such as producing too much saliva, a dry mouth, or dizziness. It is probably best not used during pregnancy or while breastfeeding (6). If a depressed person is also taking blood-thinning or immunosuppressant medication, it is best to avoid taking Rhodiola rosea as it can affect how these medications work. Type 1 diabetics should also avoid this supplement as it lowers blood sugar, which could cause hypoglycaemia (7).

#2. S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) with medication for managing depression

S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) is a naturally occurring molecule that is found in the body (8). It is also available as a dietary supplement in synthetic form that can ease the effects of depression. SAMe appears to work by increasing the availability of neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, which are often imbalanced in people with depression (9). It may also have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects, which could be beneficial for people with depression. Research suggests that SAMe supplementation is effective in reducing symptoms of depression, particularly when taken alongside anti-depressant medication. It also appears to work quite rapidly.

SAMe is said to be generally safe when taken as directed and to have very few side effects. Those side effects are nausea and constipation (8).  SAMe may be taken alongside medication for depression, but it’s important to do so under the guidance of a healthcare professional. Combining SAMe with antidepressant medications can increase the risk of serotonin syndrome, a potentially life-threatening condition (10). Therefore, it’s important to work with a healthcare professional to determine the best treatment approach for your individual needs.

#3. N-acetyl-L-cysteine

N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) is a supplement that is derived from the amino acid L-cysteine. It is commonly used as a dietary supplement and has been studied for its potential effects on a variety of health conditions, including managing depression.

While the exact way in which it works is not fully understood, NAC appears to work by increasing levels of glutathione, an antioxidant that is important for regulating inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain. It may also have an effect on the neurotransmitter glutamate, which is involved in regulating mood. Research on NAC for depression is still limited, but some studies have shown promising results. For example, a study found that NAC was effective in reducing symptoms of depression in people with bipolar disorder (11).

NAC appears to be generally safe when taken as directed, but it can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. It can also interact with certain medications, such as those prescribed for kidney disease, angina, high blood pressure, asthma, or haemophilia. Finally, as NAC has now been approved as a drug by the FDA, people living in the USA may not be able to buy it as a supplement (12).

#4. Saffron Extract 

Saffron is a spice that comes from the Crocus sativus plant. It has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties and is also commonly used in cooking. Saffron extract helps reduce symptoms of depression by increasing levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Those neurotransmitters are serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. It also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, which are other factors that help with managing depression thereby reducing the effects of depression.

A number of clinical trials have been conducted on saffron extract and have found that saffron extract is effective in reducing symptoms of depression compared to a placebo in adults with major depressive disorder (13).

Saffron extract supplements appear to be safe, but they can cause side effects in some people, such as nausea, dizziness, and headaches. Taking too much saffron extract can be poisonous, so it is important not to exceed the recommended dose of 30mg a day. It should not be used by pregnant women or those who are breastfeeding. It can interact with blood pressure medication, so it should not be taken if you have high blood pressure. (14).

#5. St. John’s Wort taken alone for managing depression

St John's Wort for managing depression

St. John’s Wort, our final supplement in this article for managing depression is a herb that has been used for hundreds of years to treat depression. Research shows that St. John’s wort can treat mild to moderate depression. It contains active compounds which help fight depression by making serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine levels rise (15).

St. John’s wort has been studied comprehensively and has positive results in reducing depression. However, it is important to note that the quality of St. John’s wort supplements can vary widely, so it is important to thoroughly check the St. John’s wort supplements that you buy (15).

St. John’s wort is safe and effective when taken alone. However, it can interact with certain medications, such as antidepressants, birth control pills, and blood thinners, so it’s important to talk to a healthcare professional first to check if it is safe to take this supplement (8).

Proceed with caution

While supplements offer benefits for managing depression and its symptoms, it is important to keep in mind that some supplements may interact with other medications or cause unwanted side effects. It is best to talk to a healthcare professional before starting to take any supplements, especially if you are already taking medication for depression. By working with a healthcare professional, you can determine the best course of treatment for your individual needs and potentially incorporate supplements as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.



  1. What Causes Depression?
  2. Mental Health Medications
  3. Rhodiola rosea therapy for major depressive disorder: a study protocol for a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial
  4. Anti-inflammatory effects of Rhodiola rosea L.: A review
  5. The Effectiveness of Rhodiola rosea L. Preparations in Alleviating Various Aspects of Life-Stress Symptoms and Stress-Induced Conditions—Encouraging Clinical Evidence
  6. Rhodiola
  7. Rhodiola
  8. Natural remedies for depression: Are they effective?
  9. S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe) in major depressive disorder (MDD): a clinician-oriented systematic review
  10. Serotonin syndrome
  11. N-acetylcysteine in psychiatry: current therapeutic evidence and potential mechanisms of action
  12. N-Acetylcysteine (NAC) Supplements
  13. Saffron (Crocus sativus L.): As an Antidepressant
  14. Saffron
  15. Medical Attributes of St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)



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