Herbs To Fight Depression

Depression goes beyond feeling a little down every now and then. It can cause a persistent feeling of despondency that gets in the way of your ability to function.The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) says major depressive disorder affects nearly 15 million adults in the United States. Certain herbs are purported to help treat this common mental illness.

Alpha-Linolenic Acid

Alpha-linolenic acid is a type of omega-3 fatty acid contained in plants. It is found in abundance in flaxseed oil. People who lack an adequate amount of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet may be at higher risk for depression, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC).

A University of Rochester New York study published in March 2010 in the journal “Bipolar Disorder” found flax oil reduced the severity of symptoms in youth with bipolar disorder. Bipolar or manic-depressive disorder can cause extreme highs and lows.


Ginkgo, also known as ginkgo biloba, is an effective herbal antidepressant and antioxidant, according to Depression-Guide.com. Ginkgo may be particularly beneficial in elderly people with compromised blood flow to the brain since it may improve blood flow throughout the body.

St. John’s Wort

St. John’s wort has been used for centuries to treat numerous ailments. As far back as ancient Greece, this herb was used to treat nervous disorders.

In recent decades St. John’s wort has been touted as an effective herbal alternative to traditional antidepressant drugs and some studies support these claims, according to the UMMC.

An Austrian study published in June 2006 in “BMC Medicine” found St. John’s wort to be safe and more effective than a placebo for the treatment of mild to moderate major depression.


Lavender has also been used to relieve depression, anxiety, insomnia and fatigue, according to the UMMC. When inhaled the scent of lavender is believed to produce calming and sedating effects.

A Korean study found lavender improved insomnia and depression in female college students. The findings were published in February 2006 in the journal “Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi.”


The herb valerian has been used medicinally for thousands of years dating back to ancient Rome and Greece. Its purported calming effects make it a popular herbal remedy for anxiety and insomnia. Anxiety often goes hand in hand with depression, notes the NIMH.

While valerian has been used to treat depression, there is limited scientific evidence to verify its true effectiveness, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

About this Author

Karen Jean Gaskell is a broadcast journalist with 25 years’ experience. Gaskell has written hundreds of articles relating to health, fitness and personal growth. Her work has appeared in “Spirituality & Health Magazine” and “Essential Wellness.” Gaskell studied journalism and broadcasting at both the University of Wisconsin and Brown College.